Weather too hot? Try this cool QNX app

I was snowblowing a friend’s driveway last winter when, suddenly, a plume of green stuff began to spew out of the snowblower's chute. I stopped, looked down, and was mortified to discover that the snowblower had just shredded my friend’s juniper bush.

The fact is, snowblowers aren’t precision instruments. Just ask the folks who operate the massive, 20-ton snowblowers that clear major roads and highways after winter storms. All too often, these vehicles bang into guardrails, resulting in costly, and often dangerous, guardrail repairs. (Imagine replacing a guardrail that prevents drivers from falling over a cliff and you’ll quickly realize where the “dangerous” part comes in.)

Enter the Advanced Rotary Plow (ARP). The brainchild of the California PATH program, the ARP automatically steers itself away from guardrails by following magnets embedded in the pavement. Controlled by the QNX RTOS, the ARP is one of the first real-world applications to come out of the PATH/CALTRANS research in automated vehicle control.

To create the ARP, the folks at PATH outfitted an existing snowblower with several add-ons, including:
  • a six-slot industrial computer

  • sensors for measuring steering angle and vehicle movements

  • sensors to measure the field strength of the road magnets

  • a steering wheel actuator
The industrial computer hosts several realtime processes, all running on the QNX RTOS. The processes obtain signals from the various sensors, control the steering actuator, and display information to the vehicle’s driver.

For details on the the ARP, including the positive outcomes of initial field trials, click here.

As for the juniper, it's healing nicely.

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