Autonomous Golf Cart engineered by Cedarville University students

Golfers often work on drive. But a group of computer engineering students at Cedarville University take that focus to a whole new level.

Three computer engineering students from Cedarville — Nathan Jessurun (Charles Town, West Virginia), Ryan Gordon (Beavercreek, Ohio) and Michael Hayes (Redmond, Washington) — are working with electrical engineering student Alex Cline (Cedarville, Ohio) to design and build an autonomous golf cart.

“We want our students to participate in today’s engineering world’s innovative ventures,” said Danielle Fredette, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Project Faculty Advisor. “Big projects like this are a good fit for our students’ abilities.”

A golf cart is a cost-effective vehicle for testing and developing autonomous driving technology. The project will cost about $2,000 to buy a used golf cart and $1,500 to make the cart driverless. Computer Engineering Professor Clint Kohl and Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Gerry Brown helped students design and develop this project.

The engineering students are trying to solve three main problems: how to make the golf cart go, stop, and steer autonomously. To solve these challenges, the Cedarville team added new electrical hardware elements to interface with a control computer with the original car motor and its mechanical steering and braking systems.

The computer receives data from a GPS unit and RADAR unit, allowing the car to self-localize, sense, and navigate its environment. The roof GPS guides the golf cart through a pre-programmed set of GPS coordinates.

When it bumps into something, the sensors will signal the cart, so it will steer or brake. In an obstacle, these sensors allow the computer to re-route and keep the cart moving to the next GPS coordinate.

Next year’s team will more fully implement the dynamic routing functionality. According to Fredette, the cart’s external sensors function effectively in fog or rain, and the cart’s passengers can still use the brake manually.