The operators of a toll road in Melbourne have used a drone to accurately map one if its tunnels in a project which it says brings it closer to being able to support safe trials of fully self-driving cars.
When EastLink’s Mullum Mullum tunnel was closed for overnight maintenance, Telstra’s aerial drone captured a LIDAR map of the tunnel to assist in making a high-resolution 3D map.
The company explains that LIDAR maps are used by most of the latest fully self-driving car prototypes, which are now under-going trials overseas in places like San Francisco and that these fully self-driving cars are pre-loaded with a LIDAR map of the trials area in which they are permitted to fully self-drive themselves. The cars also have their own LIDAR scanner which captures a real-time LIDAR view of the vehicle’s surroundings.
EastLink corporate affairs and marketing manager Doug Spencer-Roy explained, “Over the past year, EastLink has been trialling the latest driver assistance functions now available to the Australian public in some production vehicles. Those trials have already identified opportunities to improve the operation of those functions. By starting the process of capturing high resolution LIDAR maps of EastLink, we have now embarked on preparing EastLink for safe trials, under controlled conditions, of fully self-driving vehicles.
“As an added bonus, LIDAR maps of the EastLink tunnels can also be used to support our maintenance activities, by allowing the details of the tunnel infrastructure to be viewed in 3-D when planning maintenance works,” he added.
Telstra provided the aerial drone, LIDAR scanner and LIDAR map data processing. Telstra’s experienced pilot controlled the drone as it flew through the EastLink tunnel to capture the LIDAR map. Telstra Enterprise’s executive director growth, Andrew Wildblood said, “Drones are an important emerging technology that will have many applications and benefits for our business, our customers and the wider community.
“Telstra will continue to play an important role in this space, with our world class network enabling our customers to take advantage of drone technology now and into the future. Telstra has a dedicated cross-company drone team that are actively exploring the efficiency, cost reduction and safety benefits that drones can deliver our customers, like EastLink, across a number of different industry sectors.”