FAQs: Automated and connected vehicle testing

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With Ralph Buckingham, director of connected and autonomous technologies at Intertek

The automotive industry is investing millions of dollars to further advance automated and connected vehicles and technologies. While these investments are shaping the future of the industry, there are few established standards or regulations to directly address these emerging technologies. This can often create confusion regarding what types of testing can and should be performed. Intertek’s director of connected and autonomous vehicle testing answers some of the frequently asked questions.

Can I test just components, as opposed to an entire vehicle?

Yes. There is no need to wait for an entire vehicle to start testing. Individual components and systems can be tested independent of a full complete vehicle. This can help to ensure successful component integration, reduce reliability issues, and expedite full vehicle test compliance. A test vehicle can also be fitted with your component, and evaluated over the road, on the proving ground, or even tested through simulation using software.

What are some of the edge cases or potential difficulties when using radar?

The ability for radar to detect an object depends on the item’s size, shape and material composition. Most objects are visible to a radar system unless steps have been taken to reduce that visibility (think of stealth technology), but that is typically not something an autonomous car will have to deal with. Radio waves bouncing off the objects make the visibility possible, so if they are too thin, transparent to the radar frequency or non-conductive, the object may go undetected or incorrectly identified.

Radar systems may have difficulty detecting objects when there are elevation changes, such as entrance and exit ramps, or when the road has a sharp curve, because objects have unique geometry (flat trailer with axle far forward). These scenarios or ‘edge cases’ can be recreated on the test track for repeatable system evaluation.

How can I select the appropriate lidar system for my application?

Lower priced lidar systems have poorer range and/or resolution. This can give the system less time and information to interpret the surrounding environment. It takes about 100m for a vehicle to come to a full stop from 70mph when decelerating at 0.5g, so a lidar system needs to accurately detect objects nearly twice as far to react safely.

If your vehicle is designed for a lower speed environment, you may not need improved range as the safe stopping distance is much shorter. However, lower speed environments are often more difficult to navigate, with complex intersections, pedestrians and an increased number of objects to detect and track, many of which are significantly smaller than vehicles.

Benchmark testing of different lidar systems with various targets of differing sizes and reflectivity can help in the lidar selection process, as can on-road field testing.

How can I test the repeatability and durability of my lidar sensors?

Many existing lidar systems do not have the durability to withstand harsh automotive environments long enough to make them cost effective for production volume. A static, private and controlled environment, that can be mapped repeatedly over time to compare measurements, can help.

Additionally lab-based accelerated stress testing and failure mode analyses for lidar systems can be valuable. A sensor can easily be tested in the field, sent to a lab for accelerated stressing, and returned to the field for more testing.

This can yield faster results on the durability and accuracy of the lidar system over time and has the additional benefit of a third-party failure mode analysis to help improve sensor design.

How can I accurately know my vehicle’s position and trajectory when I lose GPS signal?

Due to tunnels, buildings, solar flares or simply poor reception, a GPS system will not have a connection 100% of the time. This means the vehicle needs to fall back on dead reckoning navigation from the last known GPS position.

The simplest dead reckoning algorithms may only use wheel speed and steering angle, while others may also incorporate compasses, inertial measurement units (IMUs) or other advanced sensors to try to reduce positional error. It is important to test additional sensors and algorithms and use data acquisition hardware and RTK systems to track true vehicle position vs assumed position in these situations.

Why do I need to certify my dedicated short-range communication transceiver? How do I receive certification?

Dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) requires interoperability for successful vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications. If a device is not certified, its communications may not be recognized by other DSRC transceivers and it may not recognize other transceivers’ communications. There is also a potential that a non-certified transceiver could actively interfere with certified devices, creating larger issues.

How do I validate my camera’s ability to properly detect and recognize objects in different light conditions?

Cameras can be robust at object detection under good lighting conditions but are less reliable when there is significant contrast or during transitions from one lighting condition to a different one (such as coming out of a tunnel and moving from a dark to light situation).

This is because, like the human eye, cameras cannot instantly adjust from very bright to very dark (or vice versa) and may have difficulty differentiating objects of similar contrast. Extensive track testing is needed in these different edge cases, and over the road testing is used to validate the algorithm’s ability to recognize objects.

From components to full vehicles, autonomous transportation technologies require testing, but as the technology evolves more quickly than standards there is often confusion as to where to even begin to ensure the safety and performance of these vehicles and connected components.

As the technology and industry begin to evolve, so too will the standards and questions, however these key considerations serve as a good base for the industry right now.

Ralph Buckingham is Intertek’s director of connected and autonomous technologies and also manages the daily operations requirements of The American Center for Mobility proving grounds. He participates on various standard development committees, contributing to the evolution of telematics, connected vehicle, and autonomous vehicle testing procedures.

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About Author


Rachel's career in journalism has seen her write for various titles at UKi Media & Events within automotive, tire and marine. Currently editor of ATTI, her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of transportation.

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