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Siemens to Roll Out New Simulation Platform for Self-Driving Vehicles

Siemens to Roll Out New Simulation Platform for Self-Driving Vehicles
By simulating billions of potential scenarios, the new platform could speed validation and verification of autonomous cars.

Siemens today will introduce a computing and simulation platform aimed at speeding the validation and verification of autonomous cars.

The new platform, to be rolled out at a company event in Chicago, could enable automotive engineers to reduce the amount of physical testing that would otherwise need to take place on public highways and test tracks. Siemens engineers say that the platform would allow automakers to simulate billions of test miles and countless scenarios that could take place in real life. “We do believe that in the end, you can account for 99.99999% of everything that can happen on the roads,” Martijn Tideman, director of products for TASS International, a Siemens business, told Design News.

Siemens’ new model-based platform offers a solution to validation and verification of autonomous car. (Source: Siemens)

The new platform involves existing technologies from two relatively new Siemens acquisitions. Those include TASS International’s PreScan simulation environment and Mentor Graphics DRS360 data fusion platform. PreScan, which has existed for about a decade, is a physics-based simulation platform for developing and validating automated systems. DRS360, meanwhile, is a product that takes raw, unfiltered data from cameras, radar, and Lidar systems and fuses it for subsequent use by a central processor.

In autonomous car applications, PreScan would feed the simulated data to DRS360, essentially as if it were real-world information. “DRS360 doesn’t know if it’s real or virtual because our sensor data is so good,” Tideman said. “So it enables you to test massive numbers of scenarios as if they were real.”

The ability to do that is critical to the auto industry right now, because verification and validation of autonomous cars is such a monumental task. Many industry engineers believe the sensors, actuators, and software are already in place for the creation of a Level 5 car, but they still need to “teach” vehicles how to react to the billions of possible scenarios that could take place on real-world roads. To do so on public highways and test tracks would be impossible, they say.

“There are voices in the industry talking about the needs for billions of miles of testing before a full validation cycle is complete,” noted AminKashi, director of ADAS/AD driving for Mentor Graphics, a Siemens company.

Products such as PreScan could change that, however. PreScan would enable developers to change the simulated parameters from, say, urban to rural, dark to light, rainy to sunny, or sleet to snow. “PreScan is able, not only to create a scenario, but also to re-create it for the maximum number of different situations and environmental conditions,” Kashi said.

Siemens’ end-to-end solution, complete with the ability to feed simulated data to a fusion platform, is believed to be unique in the industry right now. “There are bits and pieces of this out there right now,” Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor for VSI Labs, told Design News. “But no one has tried to stitch together and end-to-end solution for automated vehicles.”

Waymo probably has an in-house solution right now but is not making it commercially available. Nvidia Corp. may also offer a similar solution very soon (possibly as early as this week) but has not released it yet.

The development of such systems is being driven by a dire need for autonomous simulation solutions in the auto industry right now. Experts say that Level 5 autonomous cars may still be a decade or more away, largely because validation and verification of them is unlike anything in the 130-year history of the industry. The need to log billions of physical test miles would only add to the long wait, which is why simulation is so critical, they say.

“The autonomous car changes everything,” Magney said. “It heightens the role that simulation plays.”

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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.  

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