The Japanese company ZMP Inc. has recently announced its intention to deliver a research tool called the ZMP Car Robotics Platform by April, 2009 at a meager cost of about $5.5K per unit. The platform is a complete 1/10th scale vehicle.
The platform is comprised of a stereoscopic camera, NEC Corp’s image processing board, WiFi module, a gyroscope sensor, accelerometer, odometry internal sensor, laser range finder and infrared external sensor for ranging. Its software will include Linux OS and an exclusive code for an image processor. The client portion of the system will run on Windows as well as Linux and utilize the MATLAB / Simulink model-based development tool.
Although the platform is targeted at academic and business product research, clearly this ready-to-go platform has other applications in semi-structured environments.
The holistic embedded configuration of the Car Robotics Platform differs substantially from American companies that have encapsulated the autonomous functions to navigate vehicles and avoid obstacles. Companies like TORC Technologies and Gray Matter Inc. are developing component technologies that can be applied to any vehicle but those products are intended for larger, more complex applications in less structured environments. At a little over $5K per complete unit, ZMP offers a compelling alternative for smaller scale applications.