From Drones to Driving

bbcI am very fortunate to have worked in many stimulating environments, on many very different applications, and with some very awesome people. Since about 3 months Im happy to see that trend continue.

I recently joined Oxbotica, a startup out of the Oxford University Mobile Robotics Group (MRG), specialising in mobile autonomy. For various reasons it wasn’t a straightforward decision but so far has panned out well. Within the company we are developing Selenium, a cross vehicle and cross platform autonomy stack that third parties can license in whole or in part. So note this is about building and licensing software. Not cars.

In order to demonstrate Selenium’s capabilities and develop new capabilities we needed a primary work horse and hence the Geni vehicle was born. So far this is where all my effort has been going and its been great to go through the whole process from soldering wires to obstacle avoidance. After months of long days and late nights we unveiled it to the press and core partners (BBC, Wired, MIT Technology Review).

It represents a milestone as its the first vehicle that has been fully developed from within Oxbotica alone. A progression from the Shell Eco Marathon Vehicle that was developed in collaboration with MRG and recently shown off in the London Olympic Park. Though as much as Geni is the culmination of many years of research and good engineering, it is just as much the first step in a whole new chapter.

shelleco

Its an interesting time at the moment as driverless technology comes of age. Though the recent Tesla incident is a sad reminder that this is still difficult stuff and things will go wrong. Public perception is not always helpful as most people don’t realise how many layers need to work flawlessly under the hood to achieve something that, when it works, is actually pretty boring. The endless fascination with all manner of ethical dilemmas is also more of a philosophical exercise than the airtime they receive would imply.

Image 15-07-2016 at 22.48

As for me, my heart will always remain with things that fly or go underwater but regardless its been a great experience learning more about cars and the different systems that make Geni go. I hope to be able to write some technical posts as work and projects progress though it looks like its going to be hard to find the bandwidth with everything going on.

Onwards!

-Dirk

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