This is the project that led me to my job at Willow Garage. While I was at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, I joined the autonomous car project. During the winter I came out to California to work on reverse engineering the car and writing low level controllers. We did a demo, met with Scott, and I got a job offer. So as part of my brand new job we reverse engineered Ford Escape Hybrid. The existing core systems (steering, gear shift, accelerator, brakes, etc.) are actuated electronically which allowed us to easily interface with and control of these systems. The vehicle was controlled by four custom 16Bit dsPIC Microcontroller boards which interface with the existing Ford Escape computer hardware. The controllers were inserted in line, using standard Ford parts, to interface with the existing systems for easy installation, repair, or removal. Four modules are daisy chained together via a CAN bus and control the gear shift, accelerator, brakes, and steering.
As part of the team I wrote the low level control code for the control modules that interfaced with the existing Ford Escape components. I also developed a trajectory follower controller that was extremely robust and allowed the car to slalom through cones in a parking lot with ease (see above videos).