This paper describes the design of a small autonomous vehicle based on the Helios computing platform, a custom FPGA-based board capable of supporting on-board vision.
Target applications for the Helios computing platform are those that require lightweight equipment and low power consumption. To demonstrate the capabilities of FPGAs in real-time control of autonomous vehicles, a 16 inch long R/C monster truck was outfitted with a Helios board. The platform provided by such a small vehicle is ideal for testing and development. The proof of concept application for this autonomous vehicle was a timed race through an environment with obstacles.
Given the size restrictions of the vehicle and its operating environment, the only feasible on-board sensor is a small CMOS camera. The single video feed is therefore the only source of information from the surrounding environment. The image is then segmented and processed by custom logic in the FPGA that also controls direction and speed of the vehicle based on visual input.