McLean, Va., January 16, 2020—Assistive technologies in autonomous vehicles are evolving quickly and occupying more important roles in the way we work, travel, and manage our homes. MITRE created the Mobile Autonomous Systems Experimentation (MASE) Laboratory to research ways to accelerate advanced autonomous technology and provide objective perspective and recommendations for broad impact in multiple domains, including drones, commercial aircraft, tanks, and self-driving vehicles.
The lab's centerpiece is the MASE Jeep—a commercially available Grand Cherokee augmented for autonomy by an aftermarket vendor and outfitted by MITRE engineers with sensors, analytic and data recorders, and powerful processors. The Jeep provides the opportunity to explore new autonomous technologies and cutting-edge algorithms on a large mobile platform. The lab provides an integrated testing environment for emerging hardware, software, and approaches that will help to inform our government sponsors and collaboration partners.
"We have human interaction researchers who are experts at cognitive loading and how to effectively communicate between computers and people," says Zachary LaCelle, a senior autonomous systems engineer at MITRE. "We have cyber experts and autonomy experts working on ground transportation, urban air mobility, and defense applications. Our systems thinking mentality accelerates solutions to all of these problems. This broad combination of domain expertise allows us to provide additional, unique perspectives in this cutting-edge challenge area."
Teams working in the lab develop and evaluate technologies, identify solutions for emerging challenges, and recommend the most promising ones to our sponsors and partners. In addition, the lab can demonstrate capabilities to sponsors interested in scenarios where autonomy can be applied. Drawing on our innovators' expertise and point of view, MITRE can build an architecture that makes autonomous modules and hardware easier to mix and match across programs. That's where individual, siloed projects have traditionally spent a lot of money duplicating effort.
"Often, seeing the technology in action spurs additional ideas and conversation," LaCelle says. "We have the experts available to assist in research integration for people coming to us with specialized questions. We can also test new ideas, prototype them, and transfer them out to industry and other researchers."
MITRE has been working with autonomous technology in the national airspace for decades. The first major involvement with self-driving vehicles came with the company's entry in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, a 132-mile off-road driverless car competition.
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