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Car makers collaborate on autonomous and connectivity initiatives

At this year’s CES, automotive companies revealed how they are working together to develop autonomous vehicles platforms

Car maker BMW has begun collaborating with Intel and computer vision expert MobileEye to prototype autonomous vehicle technology.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said: “Moore’s Law is at the centre of this acceleration. Technology is extending far beyond consumer electronics, defining almost every aspect of our lives, and transforming industries.”

The chipmaker announced a high-performance computing platform to provide processing power from vehicles to cloud-based datacentres.

The company introduced Intel Go, automated driving technology based on Intel’s processor and field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips, which, it claimed, would offer an efficient balance of performance and power while meeting the automotive industry’s stringent thermal and safety requirements.

Intel said the Go system would provide a scalable development and compute platform for critical functions in autonomous vehicles, supporting sensor data collection, driving policy, environment modelling, path planning and decision-making.

The datacentre component of Go is based on Xeon and Xeon Phi server processors. It will be used to run the machine and deep learning training and simulation infrastructure required for the autonomous driving industry, said Intel.

BMW Group will be responsible for the driving control and dynamics, evaluation of overall functional safety including setting up a high-performance simulation engine, overall component integration, production of prototypes and, eventually, scaling the platform via deployment partners.

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Klaus Fröhlich, member of the board of management at BMW, said: “Making autonomous driving a reality for our customers is the shared ambition behind our cooperation with Intel and Mobileye. This partnership has all the skills and talent necessary to overcome the enormous technological challenges ahead and commercialise self-driving vehicles.”

Fröhlich said that during 2017, BMW would be testing its fleet of autonomous vehicles in real traffic conditions in preparation to introduce the company’s first fully autonomous vehicle, the BMW iNext, in 2021.

Mobileye said it would contribute its EyeQ®5 computer vision processor to the partnership. EyeQ®5, in combination with Intel CPU and FPGA technologies, forms the central computing platform to be integrated into each autonomous vehicle. EyeQ*5 is used to process and interpret input from 360-degree surround view vision sensors.

Mobileye is also working with BMW to develop “sensor fusion”, which it said creates a full model of the environment surrounding the vehicle, using input from vision, radar and lidar sensors, which use lasers to measure distances.

Audi also used CES to showcase its latest industry collaboration. The car company said it would be working with graphics processor company Nvidia to use the Nvida Drive PX platform in its autonomous car initiatives. The idea is to use a trained AI neural network running on Drive PX to understand the surrounding road environment, and determine a safe path to drive.

Strategic partnership

Also at CES, Renault unveiled a strategic technology partnership with OSVehicle, ARM, Pilot and Sensoria to develop an open source platform for autonomous vehicles.

Based on the company’s Twizy electric vehicle, Renault has developed POM, a compact and lightweight electric vehicle with bodywork parts removed and an open source automotive platform. Available to startups, independent laboratories, private customers and researchers, the platform can be used by third parties to copy and modify existing software to create a totally customisable electric vehicle, the car company said.

“Connected vehicles will enable new business models that deliver a broad range of choices and experiences for end-users,” said Richard York, vice-president of embedded marketing at ARM. “The automotive industry will increasingly focus on the specific functionality that owners want, such as comfort level and entertainment. By providing this platform, Renault is paving the way for innovation in these areas.”

Tin Hang and Yuki Liu, founders of OSVehicle, said: “Sharing hardware platforms common to everyone is a new co-creative and horizontal approach that can disrupt this industry, significantly lowering costs and time to market.”

SmartDeviceLink consortium

Meanwhile, Ford and Toyota announced the SmartDeviceLink consortium, a non-profit organisation working to manage an open source software platform with the goal of giving consumers more choice in how they connect and control smartphone apps on the road.

SmartDeviceLink aims to give consumers easy access to smartphone apps by using voice commands and in-vehicle displays. Adopting the open source platform gives auto makers and suppliers a uniform standard with which to integrate apps. Ford and Toyota said developers would benefit by being able to focus on creating the best experience for customers by integrating one linking system for use by all participating car makers.

Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota’s Connected Company, said: “Connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle interface is one of the most important connected services. Using SmartDeviceLink, we can provide this service to our customers in a safe and secure manner. We are excited to collaborate with many auto manufacturers and suppliers who share our view.”

Ford AppLink software

SmartDeviceLink technology is based on Ford’s contribution of its AppLink software to the open source community in 2013. Ford AppLink software is currently available on more than five million vehicles globally.

It enables smartphone app developers to integrate their app functions with in-vehicle technology such as the vehicle display screen, steering wheel controls and voice recognition. With this new level of integration, drivers can enjoy their favourite apps on the road in an enhanced, user-friendly way.

Doug VanDagens, global director at Ford Connected Vehicle and Services, and a board member of the consortium, said: “Consumers will win with new, innovative app experiences from increased collaboration and developer engagement.”

Mazda, PSA, Fuji Heavy Industries and Suzuki are the first car maker members of the consortium. Elektrobit, Luxoft and Xevo join as the first supplier members, and Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer and QNX have signed letters of intent to join.

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