College Students Build Self-Driving John Deere Gator XUV

Lucas Cooney
by Lucas Cooney

John Deere’s Gator XUV side-by-sides are known as hard working and rugged machines. However, a group of college seniors has taken the Gator XUV a step further – by having it drive itself.

Five seniors from Olin College (Nicholas Hobbs, Jacob Izraelevitz, Daniel Grieneisen, Ann Wu and Arash Ushani ) have been working with Draper Laboratory for the past nine months to continue a collaboration to build a capable, autonomous off-road vehicle. The Gator XUV that they were working on can now drive itself through complex environments that require the vehicle to detect paths, and identify and avoid obstacles.

The vehicle first tackled navigation of parking lots and roads on the Olin College campus. Developing this capability required the creation of software that could enable the Gator XUV to navigate towards GPS waypoints while detecting and avoiding static and dynamic obstacles. Next, the Olin team took the vehicle to the forest where further development added the ability to recognize organic objects as obstacles and navigate through partially GPS-denied environments.

During field testing, the vehicle has autonomously transported supplies through more than a quarter mile of densely vegetated dirt paths. Additionally, the vehicle has autonomously patrolled open field environments for extended durations.

To achieve these objectives, the Olin team has overcome challenging technical problems spanning many engineering domains, from artificial intelligence to advanced sensors and high speed computation.

Lucas Cooney
Lucas Cooney

I have been working exclusively in digital media since 1997. I started out with, spending nearly nine years creating and editing content on Canada's leading sports website. I left to join VerticalScope, Inc., one of the world's largest online publishers, to start a number of powersports publications. While at VerticalScope, I've helped create and oversee content for a wide variety of different publications, including,,,,, and many more.

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