Waterloo modular autonomous truck for any application

Why do we need an autonomous modular truck?
The potential advantages of autonomous cars are significant including reduced mobility costs, accidents, traffic, and emissions. However, autonomous driving for passenger cars on public roads and mixed environments is extremely challenging and requires years and possibly decades to fully be implemented. These challenges are more manageable for trucks driven on specific routes, and more specifically in restricted areas such as airports, resorts, warehouses, mines, and distribution centers.

How do we achieve modularity and configurability?
WATonoTruck is an autonomous truck built on a new modular technology developed by the MVS lab called the “Corner Module”. The Corner Module (CM) is in fact an electric vehicle in just one wheel! The CM is designed to have its own independent suspension, steering, drive, and brake systems along with a controller.  The corner module design for a high load capacity of up to 3 tons, steering range of ±35 degrees, and a max speed of 80km.

WATonoTruck coloured purple

WATonoTruck - 4 CM Configuration Mock-up

The inner mechanisms of a wheel

MVS Corner Module

Corner Module Subsystems

Corner Module Subsystems

The first modular truck
Below, the first modular truck built by the lab using the CM technology is pictured. The flatbed WATonoTruck was built using 4 corner modules and has a wheelbase of 5m and wheel track of 2.5m. This truck will enable further testing and evaluation of the CM platform as well as serve as a test article for advanced research in autonomous vehicle control. Current research topics for the WATonoTruck include investigation into modular, and fault tolerant control methods using the CM platform, as well as advanced off-road autonomous vehicle control. More details about ongoing research with the WATonoTruck can be seen below.

WATonoTruck side profile

MVS Labs First Built WATonoTruck

Current Research - WATonoTruck
Model predictive control for autonomous vehicle trajectory tracking in challenging off-road conditions considering road topography – Steven Tuer (MASc est. Aug 2024)

In the context of off-road vehicle control, the focus lies on adapting the standard Model Predictive Control (MPC) formulation to account for challenging, unstructured terrain. This adaptation involves accounting for the topography of the road, incorporating factors such as bank and inclination angles. This thesis will focus on incorporating these terrain considerations into the implementation of a coupled lateral and longitudinal MPC system for trajectory tracking. The inputs for the control system include path waypoints and speed limits, while the outputs are defined as four steering angles and four motor torques. To enhance off-road performance, an Adaptive Speed Planner is introduced, which shapes the velocity profile of the vehicle. This adaptive speed planner is designed to ensure both comfortability and optimal tracking performance.

Past Research Work - WATonoTruck
Development of a distributed model​ predictive controller for​ over-actuated autonomous vehicle​ path tracking​ – Ted Ecclestone (MASc 2023)

This study explores distributed MPC and its extension, agent-based MPC (AMPC), for path tracking in autonomous vehicles. The thesis focuses on applying AMPC to path tracking using the modular and over-actuated WATonoTruck platform, which features independently driven and steered wheels. The study constructs a dual track vehicle dynamics reference model, incorporating a nonlinear tire force model and Ackermann geometry for accurate tire-road interaction representation. The designed AMPC controller, considering various constraints and potential actuator faults, is validated through simulations and experiments. The controller demonstrates its efficacy in achieving effective path tracking and velocity control across diverse scenarios, including those involving actuator failures or challenging driving conditions.

Schematic of WATonoTruck from MATLAB, Simulink environment to physical device

Past Research Work – Corner Module Development

  • A Novel Universal Corner Module for Urban Electric Vehicles: Design, Prototype, and Experiment -Allison Waters (MASc 2017)
  • Design and Fabrication of a Novel Corner Wheel Module for Urban Vehicles - Mohammad-Amin Rajaie (MASc 2016)
  • Development of A Novel Integrated Corner Module for Narrow Urban Vehicles -Mohammad-Amin Rajaie, Amir Khajepour, Alireza Pazooki, and Amir Soltani
  • Published in Journal of Automobile Engineering: Volume 233, Issue 3, February 2019, Pages 548-556