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Team KAIST Makes Its Presence Felt in the Self-Driving Tech Industry
Team KAIST finishes 4th at the inaugural CES Autonomous Racing Competition Team KAIST led by Professor Hyunchul Shim and Unmanned Systems Research Group (USRG) placed fourth in an autonomous race car competition in Las Vegas last week, making its presence felt in the self-driving automotive tech industry. Team KAIST, beat its first competitor, Auburn University, with speeds of up to 131 mph at the Autonomous Challenge at CES held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. However, the team failed to advance to the final round when it lost to PoliMOVE, comprised of the Polytechnic University of Milan and the University of Alabama, the final winner of the $150,000 USD race. A total of eight teams competed in the self-driving race. The race was conducted as a single elimination tournament consisting of multiple rounds of matches. Two cars took turns playing the role of defender and attacker, and each car attempted to outpace the other until one of them was unable to complete the mission. Each team designed the algorithm to control its racecar, the Dallara-built AV-21, which can reach a speed of up to 173 mph, and make it safely drive around the track at high speeds without crashing into the other. The event is the CES version of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a competition that took place for the first time in October last year to encourage university students from around the world to develop complicated software for autonomous driving and advance relevant technologies. Team KAIST placed 4th at the Indy Autonomous Challenge, which qualified it to participate in this race. “The technical level of the CES race is much higher than last October’s and we had a very tough race. We advanced to the semifinals for two consecutive races. I think our autonomous vehicle technology is proving itself to the world,” said Professor Shim. Professor Shim’s research group has been working on the development of autonomous aerial and ground vehicles for the past 12 years. A self-driving car developed by the lab was certified by the South Korean government to run on public roads. The vehicle the team used cost more than 1 million USD to build. Many of the other teams had to repair their vehicle more than once due to accidents and had to spend a lot on repairs. “We are the only one who did not have any accidents, and this is a testament to our technological prowess,” said Professor Shim. He said the financial funding to purchase pricy parts and equipment for the racecar is always a challenge given the very tight research budget and absence of corporate sponsorships. However, Professor Shim and his research group plan to participate in the next race in September and in the 2023 CES race. “I think we need more systemic and proactive research and support systems to earn better results but there is nothing better than the group of passionate students who are taking part in this project with us,” Shim added.
Team KAIST to Race at CES 2022 Autonomous Challenge
Five top university autonomous racing teams will compete in a head-to-head passing competition in Las Vegas A self-driving racing team from the KAIST Unmanned System Research Group (USRG) advised by Professor Hyunchul Shim will compete at the Autonomous Challenge at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) on January 7, 2022. The head-to-head, high speed autonomous racecar passing competition at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway will feature the finalists and semifinalists from the Indy Autonomous Challenge in October of this year. Team KAIST qualified as a semifinalist at the Indy Autonomous Challenge and will join four other university teams including the winner of the competition, Technische Universität München. Team KAIST’s AV-21 vehicle is capable of driving on its own at more than 200km/h will be expected to show a speed of more than 300 km/h at the race.The participating teams are:1. KAIST2. EuroRacing : University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy), University of Pisa (Italy), ETH Zürich (Switzerland), Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland) 3. MIT-PITT-RW, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pittsburgh, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Waterloo (Canada)4.PoliMOVE – Politecnico di Milano (Italy), University of Alabama 5.TUM Autonomous Motorsport – Technische Universität München (Germany) Professor Shim’s team is dedicated to the development and validation of cutting edge technologies for highly autonomous vehicles. In recognition of his pioneering research in unmanned system technologies, Professor Shim was honored with the Grand Prize of the Minister of Science and ICT on December 9. “We began autonomous vehicle research in 2009 when we signed up for Hyundai Motor Company’s Autonomous Driving Challenge. For this, we developed a complete set of in-house technologies such as low-level vehicle control, perception, localization, and decision making.” In 2019, the team came in third place in the Challenge and they finally won this year. For years, his team has participated in many unmanned systems challenges at home and abroad, gaining recognition around the world. The team won the inaugural 2016 IROS autonomous drone racing and placed second in the 2018 IROS Autonomous Drone Racing Competition. They also competed in 2017 MBZIRC, ranking fourth in Missions 2 and 3, and fifth in the Grand Challenge. Most recently, the team won the first round of Lockheed Martin’s Alpha Pilot AI Drone Innovation Challenge. The team is now participating in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge as a member of Team CoSTAR with NASA JPL, MIT, and Caltech. “We have accumulated plenty of first-hand experience developing autonomous vehicles with the support of domestic companies such as Hyundai Motor Company, Samsung, LG, and NAVER. In 2017, the autonomous vehicle platform “EureCar” that we developed in-house was authorized by the Korean government to lawfully conduct autonomous driving experiment on public roads,” said Professor Shim. The team has developed various key technologies and algorithms related to unmanned systems that can be categorized into three major components: perception, planning, and control. Considering the characteristics of the algorithms that make up each module, their technology operates using a distributed computing system. Since 2015, the team has been actively using deep learning algorithms in the form of perception subsystems. Contextual information extracted from multi-modal sensory data gathered via cameras, lidar, radar, GPS, IMU, etc. is forwarded to the planning subsystem. The planning module is responsible for the decision making and planning required for autonomous driving such as lane change determination and trajectory planning, emergency stops, and velocity command generation. The results from the planner are fed into the controller to follow the planned high-level command. The team has also developed and verified the possibility of an end-to-end deep learning based autonomous driving approach that replaces a complex system with one single AI network.
KI-Robotics Wins the 2021 Hyundai Motor Autonomous Driving Challenge
Professor Hyunchul Shim’s autonomous driving team topped the challenge KI-Robotics, a KAIST autonomous driving research team led by Professor Hyunchul Shim from the School of Electric Engineering won the 2021 Hyundai Motor Autonomous Driving Challenge held in Seoul on November 29. The KI-Robotics team received 100 million won in prize money and a field trip to the US. Out of total 23 teams, the six teams competed in the finals by simultaneously driving through a 4km section within the test operation region, where other traffic was constrained. The challenge included avoiding and overtaking vehicles, crossing intersections, and keeping to traffic laws including traffic lights, lanes, speed limit, and school zones. The contestants were ranked by their order of course completion, but points were deducted every time they violated a traffic rule. A driver and an invigilator rode in each car in case of an emergency, and the race was broadcasted live on a large screen on stage and via YouTube. In the first round, KI-Robotics came in first with a score of 11 minutes and 27 seconds after a tight race with Incheon University. Although the team’s result in the second round exceeded 16 minutes due to traffic conditions like traffic lights, the 11 minutes and 27 seconds ultimately ranked first out of the six universities. It is worth noting that KI-Robotics focused on its vehicle’s perception and judgement rather than speed when building its algorithm. Out of the six universities that made it to the final round, KI-Robotics was the only team that excluded GPS from the vehicle to minimize its risk. The team considered the fact that GPS signals are not accurate in urban settings, meaning location errors can cause problems while driving. As an alternative, the team added three radar sensors and cameras in the front and the back of the vehicle. They also used the urban-specific SLAM technology they developed to construct a precise map and were more successful in location determination. As opposed to other teams that focused on speed, the KAIST team also developed overtaking route construction technology, taking into consideration the locations of surrounding cars, which gave them an advantage in responding to obstacles while keeping to real urban traffic rules. Through this, the KAIST team could score highest in rounds one and two combined. Professor Shim said, “I am very glad that the autonomous driving technology our research team has been developing over the last ten years has borne fruit. I would like to thank the leader, Daegyu Lee, and all the students that participated in the development, as they did more than their best under difficult conditions.” Dae-Gyu Lee, the leader of KI-Robotics and a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Electrical Engineering, explained, “Since we came in fourth in the preliminary round, we were further behind than we expected. But we were able to overtake the cars ahead of us and shorten our record.”
Team USRG’s Winning Streak Continues at the AI Grand Challenge
Team USRG (Unmanned Systems Research Group) led by Professor Hyunchul Shim from the School of Electrical Engineering has won the AI Grand Challenge 2020 held on Nov. 23 at Kintex in Ilsan, Kyonggi-do for the second consecutive year. The team received 7.7 million KRW in research funding from the Ministry of Science and ICT, the organizer of the challenge. The team took a little over two minutes to complete the rescue operation mission of the challenge. The mission included swerving around seven obstacles, airdropping an aid package, and safely landing after identifying the landing spot. Their drone is the only one that successfully passed through a 10-meter tunnel out of five pre-qualified teams: three from universities and two from companies. The AI Grand Challenge, which began in 2017, was designed to promote AI technology and its applications for addressing high-risk technical challenges, especially for conducting complex disaster relief operations. For autonomous flying drones, swerving to avoid objects has always been an essential skill and a big challenge. For their flawless performance in the rescue operation, the team loaded an AI algorithm and upgraded their drone by improving the LiDAR-based localization system and a stronger propulsion system to carry more sensors. The drone weighs 2.4 kg and carries a small yet powerful computer with a GPU. This AI-powered drone can complete rescue missions more efficiently in complicated and disastrous environments by precisely comprehending where the drone should go without needing GPS. The team also designed an all-in-one prop guard and installed a gripper onto the bottom of the drone to hold the aid package securely. “We tried hard to improve our localization system better to resolve issues we had in the previous event,” said Professor Shim. Two PhD candidates, Han-Sob Lee and Bo-Sung Kim played a critical role in developing this drone. After their two-year winning streak, their prize money now totals 2.4 billion KRW, equivalent to the winning prize of the DARPA Challenge. As the winning team, they will collaborate with other champions at the AI track challenge to develop rescue mission technology for a more complex environment. “The importance of AI technology is continuing to grow and the government is providing large amounts of funding for research in this field. We would like to develop very competitive technology that will work in the real world,” Professor Shim added. His group is investigating a wide array of AI technologies applicable to unmanned vehicles including indoor flying drones, self-driving cars, delivery robots, and a tram that circles the campus.
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