AutonomouStuff has been working in the automation industry since 2010. The local company based out of Morton works with companies across the globe with the mission to ‘enable the future of transportation.’ They work with companies from many different industries that develop vehicles. Agriculture, freight, mining, and consumer vehicles like the black Lexus SUV we stood in front of.
Friday, we went along for a test drive to see what these cars are all about, and how it works. “It’s a vehicle that can drive itself, to different levels, without a human being in the loop,” said Director of Autonomous Systems John Buszek. “There’s semi-autonomous vehicles where humans do some stuff. And there’s fully autonomous vehicles where the human could go so far as take a nap and the vehicle would take them from A to B safely,” added Buszek.
This summer AutonomouStuff is testing their new software on the streets of Downtown Peoria. Buszek explained, “With the Open Autonomy Pilot we’re testing what’s called open source software. This is software that you can download off the internet. Anyone can grab it.” Buszek said the idea is that the software can be the most time consuming piece of autonomous innovation, and if there’s software available to everyone working toward autonomous vehicles, it can speed up the process. He added that you still need the hardware, and maybe most importantly, a vehicle capable of using the software to make it work. Testing is currently underway, and is scheduled to continue through August. Buszek said it may continue after that if needed.
But is it safe to be on the road with these autonomous cars? Buszek said, “We have a safety driver in the seat and if they ever touch the wheel or the throttle, the gas pedal, or brake they get control back.” He likened it to the way we use cruise control, which is an automation in itself.During our ride along we could see the different systems in place the car used to sense the environment. It used radar and thermal detection to it can be used day and night.
As for Peoria, Buszek says it makes perfect sense to test there. The location is close to home, and Peoria has a great history of being first to bring big innovations to the market. Buszek added, “There’s this phrase, ‘Will it play in Peoria’, and what better way to rejuvenate that phrase than to use it for the most complex technology that the world’s ever known?”