UK-based driving simulation company rFpro has launched the world’s first commercially available platform for training and developing autonomous vehicles in simulation.
Using a digital environment to accurately represent the real world, the technology enables vehicle manufacturers to test their systems in every scenario imaginable. The key to the new platform is the level of accuracy with which it replicates the real world. This accuracy enables the various sensors used for autonomous vehicles to react naturally – test results are therefore completely representative. rFpro has used highly precise scanning technology to produce a library of real roads, which forms the basis of the simulation. As it is a digital platform, users have control of all the variables, among them traffic, pedestrians, weather and location, enabling them to test every eventuality.
“Autonomous vehicles are the future, the market is expected to be worth up to US$10tn, but debate is rising about whether these vehicles should be allowed on our roads. If not, how do we develop them?” asked 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, is already approaching the level required to achieve a fully autonomous world but the ‘brain’, the vehicle’s ability to make appropriate decisions, needs to be further developed.
“By using multiple computers 24/7, manufacturers can undertake millions of miles of testing every month using our platform. 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 manufactures and three autonomous car developers. It is also being used by a driverless motorsport series.
“Autonomous vehicles will revolutionize road safety, much more than ABS (anti-lock braking system), AEB (automatic emergency braking) or stability systems have,” said Hoyle. “It has the real potential to create a largely accident-free road network. Allowing autonomous vehicles onto 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.”