Software takes autonomous car testing off-road using simulation
UK-based driving simulation company, rFpro, has launched a commercial platform to train and develop autonomous vehicles using simulation.
Using a digital environment to accurately represent the real world, the technology is designed to help vehicle manufacturers to test their systems in different scenarios while reducing the costs and time of development.
‘Autonomous vehicles are the future, the market is expected to be worth up to $10 trillion, but debate is rising about whether these vehicles should be allowed on our roads, if not, how do we develop them?’ said Chris Hoyle, rFpro technical director.
‘Our platform enables vehicle manufacturers to thoroughly test their technology and be absolutely confident in their systems before validation on real roads. The vehicle hardware, such as the cameras and sensors, are already approaching the level required to achieve a fully autonomous world but it is the ‘brain’, the vehicles ability to make appropriate decisions, that needs to be further developed’ added Hoyle.
The company has been producing a library of real roads created through highly-precise scanning technology, which forms the basis of the simulation. As it is a digital platform, users have control of all the variables, such as traffic, pedestrians, weather and location, enabling them to test every eventuality.
‘By using multiple computers 24/7, manufacturers can undertake millions of miles of testing every month using our platform,’ said Hoyle. ‘Humans can also be introduced into the simulation, controlling surrounding cars or pedestrians, so we can assess an autonomous vehicle’s decision making and also the interaction between the vehicle and the driver, but most importantly it is carried out in a safe environment.’
The technology has been developed over the last three years and has already been adopted by two major vehicle manufacturers and three autonomous car developers. It is also being used by a driver-less motorsport series.
‘Autonomous vehicles will revolutionise road safety, much more than ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking) or stability systems have done before it,’ said Hoyle. ‘It has the real potential to create a largely accident-free road network. Allowing autonomous vehicles on to the roads is an essential part of the validation process but our platform enables all of the testing to be carried out in a completely safe environment. Further to this, it significantly reduces the cost and time required to develop these complex systems, bringing the vehicles to market sooner.’
rFpro’s models are built around a graphics engine that includes a physically modelled atmosphere, weather and lighting, as well as physically modelled materials for every object in the scene. The company also reports that the rFpro software scales from a desktop workstation to massively parallel real-time test environments connecting to customers' autonomous driver models and human test drivers.