Welcome back to the automotive industry news for August 2021! I hope you’ve been having lovely weather where you’re spending your summer – but if not (like in Germany), then perhaps I might interest you in a bit of light reading and a hot beverage instead. We’ll supply the reading of course – let’s get to it:
We’re super excited to return to real-world events, starting as exhibitors at the re-booted IAA Moblity in Munich next week! To make things even better, we are offering a live, in-vehicle demo:
Together with our partners Artisense and NNG we will demonstrate how HD maps boost ADAS functions such as lane-level navigation/guidance, AR HUD style. Places will be limited, but you are more than welcome to let us know you’d like to reserve a seat – or drop by the atlatec booth A418 in hall B2 to inquire about ad-hoc availability.
Or, if you can’t make it to Munich, we are also running a joint webinar on the topic tomorrow, September 1 at 11 AM.
Sadly, a Tesla using its “Full Self Driving (FSD)” or “Autopilot” system struck an emergency vehicle this month – the 12th time this has been reported. The incident occured right after the US NHTSA announced a probe into Tesla and its ADAS functions. As mentioned in this newsletter last month, Tesla is the only OEM not using HD maps for its hands-free driving system which, like LiDAR, Elon Musk has called “a crutch.” The article, wondering what the NHTSA probe might lead to, also takes a closer look at the background for context.
I thought I’d include this review of Ford’s new hands-free driving system, comparing it to GM’s “Super Cruise” because the two companies’ approach to Level 2+/Level 3 ADAS is so different from Tesla’s – as the article says:
“Both […] use high-definition maps of divided highways across the US and Canada to limit where their respective systems can be used. GM’s maps now include more than 200,000 miles of roads while Ford is initially limited to 130,000 miles although expansions are promised from both. If you aren’t on one of the approved roads, the systems simply won’t engage. While Tesla tells drivers that Autopilot is only meant for use in divided highways, it does nothing to prevent enabling the system anywhere.”
In the electric vehicles space, Rivian seems to be eyeing an IPO – after already having raised USD 10.5 billion so far: Building a car company is a costly business!
The desired valuation of USD 80 billion seems like a moonshot at first, considering that Ford, as one of their invstors has a 53 bn market cap – and Rivian has yet to begin regular vehicle deliveries. But then again people were saying similar things about Tesla – and now they’re worth more than the next 9 car makers combined … Apparently the IPO is supposed to happen around Thanksgiving, so this will be one to watch over the next weeks!
Just a few months after NVIDIA announced their acquisition of DeepMap, Mitsubishi’s Woven Planet has confirmed they’ll be buying mapping company Carmera (bonus article here). And, just in time, Mitsubishi Fuso has announced they’ll be integrating Woven Planet’s HD maps into their ADAS stack.
To me, this is two interesting pieces of news in one: First, the consensus that HD maps will be required for next-level ADAS features (Level 2+ and above) is once again confirmed across vehicle categories, leaving Tesla as basically the only OEM to double down on not using them (see also the article on Autonomous Vehicle International above). Second, the field of HD mapping is facing consolidation – and investor-backed players might have to opt for a profitable sell-off in the short term, rather than waiting for the elusive moment in time when the AV business model will fully take off.
Waymo is arguably one of the front runners in autonomous driving, and they have always been vocal about their view of simulation as a cornerstone of it: According to the company, Waymo has simulated 15 billion miles of driving, compared to “only” 20 million miles of real-world driving that have been completed.
In addition to their older simulator Car Craft, Waymo has now presented their new software, called “Simulation City” – which it hopes will bridge some gaps, such as new vehicle models. The article contains a video and a GIF giving some visual impressions, too, so feel free to steal a glance!
This month was ripe with mapping-related news! Tier1 supplier BOSCH is partnering up with Volkswagen to create a “crowdsourcing” solution, aiming to produce/update HD maps by leveraging the data of sensors on board series production vehicles – in this case the VW Golf 8. The article quotes BOSCH’s Dr. Mathias Pillin as saying “The more vehicles that provide information now and in the future, the larger and more robust the database will be for automated and assisted driving”, which seems to be in line with what other suppliers are banking on, most famously perhaps Mobileye.
It looks like crowdsourcing will truly be the holy grail of HD mapping in this decade – and it will be very interesting to see the differences in how automotive players approach this (traditional Tier1s vs. tech companies such as NVIDIA) as well as which strategies and platforms we’re going to see.
Welcome back to the monthly industry newsletter from atlatec. I hope you had a great start into the summer. In this issue, we are covering Tesla’s latest decision to completely remove radar sensors, DeepMap’s future with NVIDIA, and Volkswagen’s idea of pay-per-use self-driving cars. Enjoy the read and make sure to watch our latest fireside chat on YouTube.
Since atlatec is a computer vision company, you can expect us to be strong supporters of what this type of sensor technology can do. With Elon Musk’s most recent headline news, however, many industry experts believe he is putting too much trust in cameras – by completely removing radar sensors from future Tesla models.
Tesla’s head of AI, Andrej Karpathy, has shed some more light on the reasons behind this move, explaining that in Tesla’s view, their camera system has become so superior to radar that adding “mixed signals” only makes for errors and added sensor fusion effort, rather than higher safety and better performance through redundancy.
If the past is any indication for the future, Elon won’t care much about what other EV/AV companies think about this move – but it remains to be seen if his shareholders will, depending on what results Tesla will be able to deliver regarding its self-driving functionalities.
Last year, we were actually speculating about whether or not this would happen: NVIDIA, a key investor in DeepMap, has announced they’ll be acquiring the HD mapping company completely.
According to official quotes, the reason is to leverage DeepMaps IP in order to boost NVIDIA’s mapping – and thus, self-driving – capabilities, presumably enabling them to widen their footprint as suppliers for ADAS/AV technology among other automotive OEMs. The one comparison that comes to mind as a direct competitor is Mobileye: It will be interesting to see if NVIDIA will try to establish a similar offering with an end-to-end solution encompassing sensors, processors (remember they bought ARM in 2020) and software.
Who will use autonomous vehicles, and who will pay for them? Underlying business cases are one of the pillars that will have to carry self-driving technology if it is ever to become mainstream. Volkswagen has shared some ideas: A pay-per-use model, where the public can rent AVs by the hour.
Klaus Zellmer, VW board member for sales, marketing and after sales even shared a possible price: 7 Euros per hour might buy you access to a self-driving Volkswagen model.
One one hand, easy access to autonomous mobility when you need it seems neat – on the other hand, 7 Euros per hour is a hefty price when compared to public transportation solutions that many city dwellers on the globe are used to. For more rural areas, however, this might solve a real mobility problem; especially if co-financed by municipalities, as an addition to public transportation.
When we opened up registrations for our first-ever webinar, our team made some bets on how many people would sign up. Most of us guessed at around 20 to 30 registrations – and we’re very glad we didn’t put up any money: We ended up with over 500 registered participants, the majority of which joined us live to watch the discussion between atlatec CEO Henning Lategahn and our partners at GeneSys, MdynamiX and the Kempten University of Applied Sciences.
Apparently the topic, scaling precise ADAS testing on public roads and putting measured performance into meaningful context, was quite relevant for many: We are still getting daily requests for the video recording as well as our panelists’ presentations. If you, too, would like to watch it, you can access all the material right here on our website.
As we are slowly entering the summer season, let’s look back and recap the latest automotive news of May. This month SAE updated the official names for ‘Autonomous Driving’ Levels, Germany passed legislation for autonomous vehicles driving without safety drivers’ presence, and Ford released its first electrical truck – the F-150 Lightning.
Apart from that, we kindly invite you to join our live panel discussion on ADAS testing that will take place in just a week. You can register for both German and English sessions – pick the one that fits you best.
There’s a lot of debate around what “autonomous driving” really is; and some pretty diametral view points – sometimes within one and the same company (looking at you, Elon Musk and Tesla’s legal department). One framework that’s proven to be useful in differentiating between what does and does not constitute self-driving technology are the SAE Levels Of Driving Automation (L0 – L5).
This standard, formally known as SAE J3016 has now been updated to more accurately separate driver support features (L0 – L2) and automated driving features (L3 – L5). It also clearly classifies simultaneous use of modern ADAS features like ACC and LKA as a Level 2 system – and thus firmly places it in the driver support domain. So get the latest “cheat sheet” and you’ll be well prepared for the next heated ADAS vs. AD debate – which we probably all get into at some point.
Speaking of automated driving: In a move sure to surprise many, Germany’s national parliament has voted to allow testing of Level 4 systems on public roads from 2022 – without a safety driver on board. Some restrictions such as proper insurance and remote shutdown options apply, but those hardly seem like roadblocks for companies serious about this type of technology.
With several OEMs in the country as well as players like Argo AI and Mobileye already testing their cutting-edge systems on public roads in Germany, it will certainly be interesting to see what to actually expect on and off the Autobahn next year – and how the public will react.
When is a car not a car? When it is a truck – or perhaps even something else entirely. Ford has revealed the battery electric version of its best-selling truck, dubbed the F-150 Lightning – and while thorough, independent reviews will need to be considered, it seems that competitors such as Rivian or Tesla’s Cybertruck will be facing a formidable competition:
The product management at Ford seems to have employed impressive user centricity; completely rethinking what a truck actually is – or can be. The F-150 Lightning is not only powered by a battery: It will also power external appliances, from work crews’ tools all the way to complete households, if necessary in a blackout: Something that will arguably be a selling point for citizens of US states regularly threatened by flooding, tornadoes or wildfires. For companies that run work crews (perhaps the most important customer segment for this vehicle), the BEV version of the F-150 may well turn the question of “Why go electric” into “Why not”: The use of a vehicle that makes both the job and fleet management easier (thanks to improved telematics) and that can easily be recharged back at the company lot every night seems compelling – even more so if it also brings maintenance costs down, which are typically higher for combustion engine vehicles.
You may remember our article about ADAS testing from last month’s newsletter, exploring a solution to create and leverage reference data at scale that we co-created for Porsche. Now we bring the contents to you live, as a webinar together with our partners:
Join atlatec CEO Henning Lategahn as well as representatives from GeneSys, MdynamiX and the Kempten University of Applied Sciences on June 8th or 10th:
We are offering sessions both in English and German language. So far the resonance has been amazing; which is why we’ve upgraded our webinar hosting package to allow for additional registrations. So if you haven’t already, you are warmly invited to sign up – we hope to see you next week!
I hope this overview helps you to stay on top of industry news. Make sure to watch the latest fire-side chat with the atlatec team. The video is already available on YouTube.
Stay tuned for the atlatec industry newsletter coming in the end of June!
As usual at the end of each month, we’ve prepared a brief automotive news overview to help you to keep track of the hottest headlines.
This time, we’re especially happy to include some news of our own! Additionally, we found interesting developments at Volvo Trucks and their partnership with Aurora, the Polestar’s long-term commitment to the first climate-neutral EV, and Nvidia’s DRIVE Orin AI-computing platform, that Volvo Cars has opted to use for their AV.
I hope you enjoy the read and make sure to watch out latest fire-side chat that is already available on YouTube.
While actual autonomous vehicles may still be a few years out, the L1/L2 ADAS domain is already going stronger than ever. That’s why we’re happy to publish some news of our own this week: A detailed look at a solution for ADAS validation that brings capabilities and fidelity previously limited to proving grounds to public road testing.
Take a look at this solution for creating and leveraging reference data at scale as it was piloted by Porsche and built together by atlatec and our partners GeneSys, MdynamiX and the Kempten University of Applied Sciences. We’re quite excited to share this and hope you will take an interest, too: If you have any thoughts, we’d love to hear them!
Autonomous trucks are often regarded as perhaps the first instance of actual production AVs we’re likely to encounter on the open road. Reasons include the focus on (relatively non-comlex) highway routes, saving human drivers the grind of long-distance trips as well as the clear business case to be made in the logistics domain.
The latter, of course, relies on actual commercialization – towards which Volvo Trucks may have just taken another step, announcing a partnership with AV stack provider Aurora. The mutual goal: To bring autonomous hub-to-hub truck operations to North America – and thus bringing everyone a step closer to encountering actual AVs on public roads.
Basically every car maker and their suppliers are currently asking themselves, “How can we reduce carbon emissions a bit more – and perhaps offset the rest?” This is, of course, a relevant effort; and it continues to produce reductions for CO2, NOx and other emittents by a few percent every year (or at least every time a new emissions standard is announced).
However, instead of asking about 10% less, Geely-owned Polestar has chosen to question everything about themselves, aiming for 100% elimination of emissions – including not only the operations lifecycle of their new “Polestar 0” model, but also the entire supply chain and production, moving away from toxicity-related materials for chassis and batteries.
That asking bigger questions lead to bigger answers is something tech companies like Google have known for a long time (see “10X thinking”) – it will be exciting to see its effects on automotive and manufacturing, and whether others will follow suit!
More news from Sweden, and thus from Geely, who are also the proud owners of Volvo Cars: As was announced during NVIDIA’s GTC this month, the car maker has chosen their “DRIVE Orin” system to enable its passenger cars to drive themselves.
As Volvo Cars has previously announced, they’re skipping Level 3 entirely, instead aiming for L4 operations on highways as their debut on the autonomous vehicles stage. The first vehicle to come with the new NVIDIA SoC is the next-gen XC90; in which it will work hand in hand with ADAS software developed by Zenseact and LiDAR sensors supplied by Luminar.
Stay tuned for the atlatec industry newsletter coming at the end of May! In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.
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Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have been around since quite a while: Modern-day vehicles inevitably come with assistance features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane-Keep Assist (LKA), Blind Spot Monitors, Traffic Sign Recognition and other features supposed to make driving safer and more comfortable. In contrast to Autonomous Vehicles, ADAS is a huge and profitable market today, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
If you’ve driven a car with such features in the last few years, though, you might have realized that the performance of these systems can vary – sometimes by quite a lot: While some LKA systems do a good job of keeping your vehicle on track, others tend to react too late, or overcorrect and send you right across the opposite lane border rather than properly centering the car between them. Similarly, some ACCs make for a smooth ride, while others may apply the brakes when another vehicle cuts you off after overtaking – rather than just letting their higher speed widen the gap between you, as most human drivers would do.
Join live panel discussion “How to scale ADAS testing with objective KPIs“. Register here.
Why ADAS Performance Varies So Much
One of the reasons for the varying performance of ADAS features is that reliable, objective testing procedures for public roads have been rare.
During real-world testing, car makers and their suppliers routinely record all onboard data from sensors, actuators and more – allowing for in-depth analysis of system failures, near-misses and similar incidents after a drive. However: These onboard systems only record their own version of events – figuratively speaking, what the car thinks happened during the drive. If you want to iron out false positives/negatives, you need to compare this questionable version of events to a more trusted data set – reference data, or “ground truth” data.
Using Lane-Keep Assist as an example: If a test vehicle missed a lane border, overcorrected, or failed completely, you need to closely examine the actual environment/lane borders in that exact position – as well as the vehicle’s relative position and pose in that specific moment.
In the past, this has been a huge task and massive undertaking, requiring lots of on-site engineering manpower and high-precision measurements that were only possible in closed-off, controlled environments – in other words, on proving grounds.
And while proving grounds are an amazing asset for automotive testing, the total scope and variability of their test routes are by definition limited – which makes it a challenge to optimize a system for use on hundreds of thousands of kilometers of open road. Similarly, standardized tests as defined by EuroNCAP or ISO don’t come close to capturing the variety of roads and scenarios a vehicle is sure to encounter during its lifecycle.
To use another metaphor: Imagine driver training only taking place on a single safety course, with drivers unable to learn better performance after passing the test and entering public roads.
To better optimize for the real world, more real world testing is required – and it needs to happen without sacrificing the precision and fidelity of known approaches: It is not feasible having to rely on subjective feedback from test drivers that “it felt maybe a little bit strange somewhere back there.”
This leads us to a second reason why ADAS features differ so much from brand to brand: The lack of an objective standard for how they should perform – and what the criteria for optimal driving pleasure might be. The following portion of this article describes a field-tested approach to solving both of these problems.
From Subjective Feelings To Objective KPIs and Measurements
In a collaboration with the performance car maker Porsche, the companies GeneSys, MdynamiX and atlatec as well as research partner Adrive Living Lab of the Kempten University of Applied Sciences have created a solution to bridge this gap. Together, the partners have introduced a testing process that allows for objective ADAS validation at scale and on open roads, as featured in ATZ magazine (Automobiltechnische Zeitschrift).
The approach consists of 4 steps – in the aforementioned project, it was applied to validate LKA performance:
The definition of objective criteria for ADAS performance.
The creation of ground truth environment/HD map data
The accurate recording of vehicle position/pose reference data during test drives
In-depth analysis of relevant driving situations and their recreation in the virtual space/simulation
Defining Objective Criteria For Driving Pleasure
The first challenge is already one of the hardest: How do you quantify an emotional quality criterion such as driving pleasure, or the feeling of safety? To solve this challenge, the Kempten University of Applied Sciences has developed a model of 3 layers: Subjective customer assessment, subjective expert assessment and finally a layer of objective vehicle signals.
A series of test drives, workshops, benchmarking campaigns and more produce insights into the subjective preference of customers for how a feature (e. g. an LKA) should perform. These insights are then refined into categories and sub-categories by automotive experts. Finally, the results are matched with related vehicle-level signals and the expected intensity to be measured for each of them, on a scale from none (0) to high (9).
Generating Ground Truth Data At Scale
Automotive OEMs and suppliers of ADAS technology already do test drives on a defined set of routes: These routes are chosen for factors like their variety, internationality, likelihood of certain events and more – and can cover hundreds or thousands of kilometers of public roads across multiple continents.
These routes are a great resource for objective ADAS testing on public roads – if you have access to high-accuracy measurements of their features and a way to generate reference data for the trajectories your test vehicles drive over them.
To this effect, the High Definition (HD) mapping capabilities of atlatec are leveraged to create 3-dimensional maps of test routes on – in this case, on public roads around Stuttgart and Kempten in Southern Germany.
The finished maps are exported into a multi-layered data format allowing for localization and matching of vehicle poses in real time. For the described collaboration, a variation of OpenDRIVE was used.
Test Drive Recording At High Fidelity
Accurately recording and recreating all trajectories driven during testing is made possible by an Automotive Dynamic Motion Analyzer (ADMA) unit by GeneSys: a high-precision motion sensor which allows for differential GNSS correction and is designed specifically for vehicle dynamics testing.
Based on this technology new test methods had to be developed for the objective evaluation of driving characteristics in the ADAS/AD context. Therefore, driver input as well as road and traffic input, control intervention and the resulting vehicle reaction/movement should be evaluated in its 6 degrees of freedom. Derived from the automated lateral control, it is necessary to obtain a high level of knowledge of the road excitation (essentially road markings and surface geometry) and the driver input in order to be able to evaluate the resulting vehicle reaction accordingly. In the case of assisted longitudinal guidance, a high-level knowledge of the surrounding traffic is required.
Like all sensors, environmental sensors such as cameras, radar or lidar are faulty and not available or sufficiently accurate in all situations. This can have a significant impact on driving characteristics: For example, a camera may not be able to reproduce the curvature of a road accurately, which can cause difficulties for the lane-keeping controller. This repeatedly leads to uncertainties if the experienced driving characteristics are a result of the poor performance of sensors, trajectories, controllers, actuators or the poor response of the vehicle influenced by steering, axles, tires and chassis control systems.
In order to investigate this cause and effect chain, a much more accurate reference measurement method should be used as “Ground Truth”.
In addition, an optimized measuring steering wheel allows for precise recording of steering speed/angle and torque/gradient. In the collaboration with Porsche, an original steering wheel was used to fully preserve the brand- and model-specific haptics, control functions and other details, ensuring realistic driver/vehicle interaction.
For the test drives, a comprehensive catalog of defined maneuvers and situations is created by MdynamiX and the University of Applied Science Kempten, ensuring that all relevant scenarios are encountered and recorded.
Turning Data Into Insights And Reproducible Scenarios For Simulation
The use of suitable algorithms makes for precise calculations and the automatic generation of KPI values from the recorded data. For example, the yaw rate and lateral acceleration recorded by the reference system – based on the ground truth curvature – can be matched with the measurements from the onboard system, allowing for accurate measurement of the production system’s deviation from the actual/reference values.
To gain further insights from the data, the digitalized test routes can be imported into automotive simulation tools. This allows for additional MIL/SIL/HIL tests as well as immersive Driver-in-the-Loop simulations.
Additionally, select scenarios encountered and recorded on real-world test drives can be reproduced – allowing for variation of parameters to further narrow down performance limitations.
If you’d like to explore this topic further and in more scientific detail, we recommend the following resources:
M. Höfer, F. Fuhr, B. Schick und P. E. Pfeffer, „Attribute-based development of driver assistance systems“ in 10th International Munich Chassis Symposium 2019, P. E. Pfeffer, Hg., Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, 2020, 293 – 306.
J. Nesensohn, S. Levéfre, D. Allgeier, B. Schick, and F. Fuhr. “An Efficient Evaluation Method for Longitudinal Driver Assistance Systems within a Consistent KPI based Development Process”.
S. Keidler, D. Schneider, J. Haselberger, K. Mayannavar und B. Schick, „Entwicklung fahrstreifengenauer Ground Truth Karten für die objektive Eigenschaftsbewertung von automatisierten Fahrfunktionen“ in 17. VDI-Fachtagung, Hannover, 2019.
B. Schick, C. Seidler, S. Aydogdu und Y.-J. Kuo, „Driving experience vs. mental stress with automated lateral guidance from the customer’s point of view“ in Proceedings, 9th International Munich Chassis Symposium 2018, P. Pfeffer, Hg., Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, 2019, S. 27–44, doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-22050-1_5.
S. Aydodgu, B. Schick und M. Wolf, „Claim and Reality? Lane Keeping Assistant – The Conflict Between Expectation and Customer Experience“ in 27. Aachener Kolloquium, Aachen, 2018.
D. Schneider, B. Schick, B. Huber und H. Lategahn, „Measuring Method for Function and Quality of Automated Lateral Control Based on High-precision Digital “Ground Truth” Maps“ in 34. VDI/VW-Gemeinschaftstagung Fahrerassistenzsysteme und Automatisiertes Fahren 2018: Wolfsburg, 07. und 08. November 2018, 2018.
B. Schick, F. Fuhr, M. Höfer und P. E. Pfeffer, „Eigenschaftsbasierte Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen“, ATZ Automobiltech Z, Jg. 121, Nr. 4, S. 70–75, 2019, doi: 10.1007/s35148-019-0006-2.
To learn more from the parties involved, feel free to reach out directly:
Titel image: „Eigenschaftsbasierte Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen“, ATZ Automobiltech Z *„Eigenschaftsbasierte Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen“, ATZ Automobiltech Z **„Eigenschaftsbasierte Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen“, ATZ Automobiltech Z ***„Eigenschaftsbasierte Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen“, ATZ Automobiltech Z ****„Eigenschaftsbasierte Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen“, ATZ Automobiltech Z
As we approach the end of March, let’s look back at the headlines that made noise this month. In this issue: Tesla, Honda, and Volvo. This month we are especially excited about the release of atlatec’s brand-new website. We would like to thank everyone who participated in this challenging project and contributed to the result that we are ready to present. Feel free to check out atlatec.de and let us know what you think.
Tesla is one of those companies that tends to polarize people: You’re either a real fan or a pronounced sceptic, with little middle ground between “Teslaratis” and outspoken critics.
One large reason for that is Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” (FSD) feature – on which, apparently, Tesla is pretty divided itself: While Elon Musk has repeatedly praised the system as an actual self-driving feature on Twitter, his lawyers argue the polar opposite in front of the DMV: A new trove of emails, revealed after after a public records request show that Tesla’s lawyers adamantly claim FSD to be nothing but a L2 driver assist feature – with no perspective or even a plan to turn it into anything resembling autonomous driving, under any conditions.
The article contains a link to the emails if you want to dive in yourself. An additional takeaway that was very interesting to us: Tesla lawyer Eric Williams references the Model 3 handbook, clarifying that FSD will indeed have trouble in areas for which proper map data is not available and may very well be unable to recognize stop signs and traffic lights due to inaccurate maps. Once again, quite the contrast to the messages of Musk himself, who has called reliance on (HD) maps “a really bad idea” before.
So there it is, the first Level 3 system on the market, that will actually allow you to take your hands off the wheel, while the car takes over responsibility for driving.
Honda debuted its first L3 feature this month, the “Traffic Jam Pilot” which can drive autonomously in bumper-to-bumper highway traffic, while the “driver” is free to enjoy the infotainment system or otherwise occupy themself – provided they remain able to take back operations if the system notifies this to be required.
Honda reports they’ve driven 1.3 million kilometers for testing, and have simulated around 10 million scenarios in preparation. Still, the company wants to make sure they’re not moving too fast: The feature will only be available to 100 leasing customers to start with and they’re limiting it to speeds up to 50 km/h rather than the 60 mph regulation allows for.
Volvo Cars is one company that has been behind some massive innovations in automotive over the decades: The 3-prong safety belt, SIPS/side airbags and limiting all new vehicles to 180 km/h top speed, to name a few. The first and the latter were pretty controversial at their time (the latter as recently as 2020) but Volvo did what they thought was right anyway.
The next chapter in that legacy may be ahead: Volvo Cars has announced they see “no long-term future for cars with an internal combustion engine” and will sell nothing but electric vehicles by 2030. By 2025, half of the fleet shall be fully electric already, with hybrids making up the other 50%.
In addition to this massive overhaul, they also want to modernize the customer experience in order to make car sales more digital and mainly online-driven, only offering in-person assistance where customers really want it (e. g. around test drives and delivery).
This month, we have some news of our own, and we’re pretty excited about it: After loads of discussions, drafting, designing and reworking, we are happy to announce the launch of our all-new atlatec.de website.
So, why the do-over? First of all, we wanted to reflect the degree of maturity that we’ve achieved over time: Working for international automotive OEMs and Tier1 suppliers as well as other leading companies in the mobility sector, we thought it was high time to get rid of what our CEO lovingly called “Mickey Mouse animations” and replace similar young-blood gimmicks with actual footage of our work.
Secondly, we wanted to present said work in a more customer-oriented manner: Rather than focusing on what we find interesting ourselves, the new website breaks down our solutions by customer use cases, such as HD maps/scenarios for simulation or maps for AV/ADAS production systems. For those and more, atlatec.de now offers dedicated pages focusing on specific, related parts of our portfolio: All the relevant info is curated in one place, the rest left to explore elsewhere, for those who want to do so.
If you decide to take a look at the new website, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it: Let us know by simply replying to this email or shoot us a message on LinkedIn!
I hope this overview helps you to stay on top of the industry news. Make sure to watch the latest fireside chat with the atlatec team on YouTube.
Stay tuned for the atlatec industry newsletter coming end of April!
News from TuSimple, Motional, New Flyer, AIMotive, and MathWorks
As usual, at the end of the month the atlatec team prepares for you a short overview of the automotive news that we found the most interesting. Enjoy the summary and make sure to watch our latest Zoom talk – it is already available on YouTube.
There has been a lot of news from China about robotaxi rollouts in the last few months; now comes a huge leap for autonomous trucks: TuSimple, a 4 year old startup has received approval for operating a fleet of 5000 fully self-driving trucks, without safety drivers on board.
This is also interesting news for investors in the space: TuSimple expects to turn a net profit of $300 million thanks to this move – while eyeing an IPO in 2021 that might lead to a $7 billion valuation.
Motional, the joint venture by Hyundai and Aptiv, will begin to offer driverless rides in Las Vegas, joining companies such as Waymo and Cruise. A “safety steward” (with somewhat unspecified responsibilities) will apparently be on board, but the permit issued by the state of Nevada allows for an empty driver’s seat.
An interesting detail is that operations are reportedly focused on “suburban residential areas”, which arguably make for a good use of AVs: Offering a bridge across the “last mile” gap between public transit stations and people’s homes might make more sense that deploying an ever-rising number of vehicles in city centers, where public transportation is usually at its best and most dense.
Speaking of public transportation: Why are we reading so much about autonomous trucks and robotaxis, but rarely hear of autonomous buses? Reasons behind that might be the challenge of navigating massive vehicles in dense, busy urban environments – but apparently New Flyer, North America’s biggest producer of buses feels up to that: Their first autonomous model, an electric Xcelsior, will begin testing in 2022.
There’s also advantages over other AV use cases according to New Flyer president Chris Stoddart: “One of the nice things is the ability to pre-map the routes, when you can run your vehicle around that route and pre-map it so that you have some redundancy and don’t have to rely completely on your various visual systems all the time […] When your average bus speed is only 12.5 mph that certainly helps.”
There’s lots of providers of tools for AV/ADAS simulation, and it mostly seems they’re sticking to their own devices, attempting to build the best solution they can independently of other players in the space. It’s a refreshing change to see some collaboration here, with AImotive and MathWorks integrating their “aiSim” and “RoadRunner” offerings:
This will apparently allow for an easy import of road models created in RoadRunner (formerly by VectorZero) into aiSim, an ISO 26262/ASIL-D-certified simulation platform. Since RoadRunner in turn provides the ability to import real-world OpenDRIVE HD maps (e. g. by atlatec), this might indeed make for a compelling toolchain, coupling access to realistic environment models with sophisticated virtual sensor simulation. If you happen to be using/trialing this solution, we’d love to hear some impressions!
We hope you enjoyed this issue. Stay tuned for the upcoming automotive news overview at the end of March. Get the overview directly to your mailbox – sign up for the atlatec newsletter.
When I initially saw the headlines about this, I was intrigued by words like “partnership” and “collaboration” between Waymo and Daimler Trucks North America. Upon closer reading of the press pieces, it turns out this partnership amounts to: Daimler selling trucks to a customer (who happens to be Waymo). Apparently, the Freightliner team at Daimler will not be involved in the “Waymofication” of the vehicles and have no insight whatsoever.
Seems like a lot of buzz for “OEM sells vehicles”, but serves to highlight the conflict of legacy OEMs and Silicon Valley software companies: Will the Daimlers of the world become the new Tier1s in the world of autonomous driving? Let’s wait and see – after all, Daimler Trucks still has its own AV project going on with Torc Robotics …
There’s been a lot of news items this year about OEMs electrifying their model range; most recent examples including GM and Volkswagen, whose chairman called EVs “the only reasonable option” for the future.
One piece that was not quite as popular was this one from Volvo Trucks – which piqued my interest because electrification in commercial vehicles (save for buses) hasn’t been that much of a hot topic in my opinion. That might change quite soon, with Volvo promising EV options for their entire range, starting next year in Europe.
Cut down on delivery times and budget demands for HD maps: The atlatec OpenDRIVE database gives you instant access to over 1000 km of real-world HD maps. Our founder and CEO Dr. Henning Lategahn calls atlatec database “Mapflix for Simulation”: it is as easy to access and is cost-efficient.
It’s actually happening: Starting in Q1 of next year, the public will be able to buy a new Honda, capable of L3 automation – the first SAE level to actually be considered “automated driving” rather than “driving support”. To start, the vehicles will only be taking over operation on highways, and only in limited situations, such as stop-and-go traffic. To me personally, that’s one of the most tedious driving situations, though, so automating it should be a great value add for people in areas prone to traffic jams.
Easily the most underreported piece of news to me this month: The UK has decided to ban the sale of new petrol/diesel driven vehicles from 2030 (hybrids from 2035). Sure, Norway is 5 years earlier – but the UK is a rather different animal, both in terms of population and economy. While I feel this is an exceptionally brave move and hope to see it turn into a success, I remain somewhat sceptical: The required infrastructure alone will be a massive feat – and ten years can be a much shorter time, especially if you are also dealing with Brexit and a worldwide pandemic right when you start.
And some more news from atlatec: We’ve released an expanded version of our San Francisco HD map sample – one that includes 3D assets and textures, for use in Carla, VTD and other simulations, entirely free! Visit the article to read more about the data, which was created in a collaboration with Trian Graphics, see a video and grab a download link. And if you do: Be sure to tell us what you think!
Just like last month, we got on a Zoom talk with Henning Lategahn and Tom Dahlström to discuss some of these news – the video is now available on YouTube. We hope you enjoy this issue!
I hope you had lovely holidays and would like to extend my best wishes for the new year! 2020 is going to be an exciting one for us at atlatec, and I hope the same is true for you. Speaking of exciting stuff, here’s some news from our industry that stuck out this month – enjoy the read:
Just a few weeks after Daimler’s new chairman Ola Källenius announced the company would cut down its investment in robotaxis, the car maker has now launched a pilot service in San Jose, collaborating with Tier1 supplier Bosch. The service is only open to a select group of pilot users (who are company employees) and there’s going to be both a safety driver and a separate engineer on board with passengers. However: “Daimler and Bosch hope to begin offering service to the general public in San Jose as soon as possible” – let’s see when that will turn out to be.
It’s been 4 years since BMW, Daimler and Audi teamed up to buy HERE from Nokia, aiming to build proprietary mapping competence rather than relying on (and being dependent upon) US tech companies. Now they’re going to share with Mitsubishi and Japanese telco provider Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT). The goal, according to HERE’s CEO Edzard Overbeek: “[F]urther diversifying our shareholder base beyond automotive, which is important given the appeal and necessity of location technology across geographies and industries.”
60 years ago, when Volvo invented the 3-point seat belt, they decided to open the patent to other car makers for free: The potential for saving lives was more important than clinging to intellectual property. If you thought such decisions for the common good couldn’t happen in today’s economy (like I did), Elon Musk proved you wrong this December, opening Tesla’s EV patents to other companies. The move might also make sense from a business standpoint, however: If it helps to drive the electrification of traffic as a whole, it stands to reason that more customers will look to buy an EV – and thus consider a Tesla.
This one’s less of a news item in the sense that it describes a new technological feat by GM’s self-driving car company Cruise – but I felt it’s an important piece, taking a step back to reflect on the automotive industry’s overall approach and asking the question whether we’re even solving for the right problems: “Despite making up less than 1% of all vehicle miles traveled, ride-sharing has added further congestion, more emissions, and potentially even decreased safety in our cities from over-tired and overworked drivers.”
In closing, I have some atlatec news to offer in the form of a video: We are now able to offer real-world traffic data (in addition to maps) for use in simulators, such as IPG’s CarMaker. We and our pilot OEM customer for this technology are confident that this kind of real-world content will be very helpful for digital validation of AV/ADAS systems that are supposed to react to traffic and other moving agents, such as adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alerts, adaptive high-beam control and more – what do you think?
If you have any remarks about the pieces linked above, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or reach out! I’m always happy to have a conversation and remain available by email or on LinkedIn. Speak soon!
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