Autonomous vehicles cannot be tested for every eventuality that might transpire in their operating environment. As the technology becomes more complex, the testing involved to validate the systems will be equally complex and produce enormous quantities of data. The current precursors to autonomous technology are known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). As ADAS become more popular, there is a need to guarantee the safety and reliability of the systems.
Test houses like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Euro NCAP laboratories must ensure that ADAS will perform appropriately and as such, are expanding the number and complexity of the tests they undertake.
Autonomous testing will be significantly longer than current ADAS tests and require high sampling rates from a far greater number of inputs. When it comes to autonomous testing, there are many more considerations, such as multiple vehicles, terrains, weather conditions, pedestrians, and complex scenarios with equally complex outcomes. The data accumulated through such experiments is vast, with the decisions relying on it being critical.
UTAC CERAM, a French test house, is at the forefront of this testing evolution. It employs more than 400 engineers at two test centers working on the development, testing, and approval of all types of land transport. Recently, it noticed an increase in client requests for complex vehicle safety tests, and expanded its operational capacity for Euro NCAP validation of ADAS. To help meet these new requirements, UTAC CERAM turned to AB Dynamics, a test system supplier to the automotive industry, and one it has been working with for a decade.
AB Dynamics’ Torus steering robots apply accurate and repeatable inputs to a vehicle's steering, allowing the test engineer to completely remove the variability that comes with a human driver. The range of steering robots includes robots specifically designed for vehicle dynamics, durability testing, and ADAS development.
“The increasing levels of active safety encompassed within Euro NCAP testing are driving additional requirements, such as more complex vehicle interactions, junction layouts, and connectivity,” explained Aurélien Garcia, Team Manager, Vehicle Behavior, UTAC CERAM. “Satisfactory testing of connected and autonomous vehicles requires the synchronization of all vehicles and targets in order to evaluate the reactions of the test vehicle. The increased testing workload will also lead to greater use of simulation, which will require correlation with physical tests, and more testing on public roads, subject to satisfactory safety controls.” AB Dynamics supplies test houses like UTAC CERAM, and vehicle manufacturers, with a range of key testing equipment including driving robots, static vehicle test rigs, data capture, vehicle and pedestrian ADAS “targets,” and driving simulators.
“We are witnessing a shift in the testing of vehicle safety; it will become much more complex and time-consuming with increasing autonomy,” said Jeremy Ash, Commercial Manager, AB Dynamics. “Most ADAS or vehicle dynamics tests are short enough in duration that our robots’ onboard data capture capabilities are sufficient. We're talking about a few vehicles, or a vehicle and a vulnerable road user like a pedestrian or cyclist. The tests required to validate autonomous technology, on the other hand, could potentially be much more complex, with entire road scenes that need to be repeatable. Our relationships with manufacturers and test houses mean we are acutely aware of the industry's requirements, keeping us at the forefront of automotive technology.”
Integrating and Implementing Data
UTAC CERAM is noticing an increasing requirement to collect and interpret data presented by the car's systems. The amount of data generated by the vehicles is growing massively through the use of things like onboard vision systems and LiDAR, and this trend is likely to increase. While currently most cars do not store the data, this is set to change as such data will be relied upon to support the self-learning artificial intelligence.
Away from the test track, activities such as K+C (Kinematics and Compliance) tests and the use of driver-in-the-loop simulators are very data-intensive. As a test house, UTAC CERAM is able to bring together the various data streams to help in building better models and correlating them more completely, especially with regard to accurate end-user usage patterns.
“Integrating data from simulations, lab tests, track tests, and road mileage can generate significant additional workload for engineers to facilitate meaningful comparisons,” said Ash. “We make use of our compatible software in order to reduce this burden; for example, scenarios programmed on the track with our driving robots and ADAS targets can be reprogrammed on our aVDS (advanced Vehicle Driving Simulator) using the same software. It's as easy as copy and paste.”
Test houses have always worked to ensure the safety and quality of vehicles, validating the latest automotive technology and safety systems. The challenge for test equipment suppliers like AB Dynamics is to provide them with the means to do so, at a time when the complexity of both the vehicle and testing is increasing at an unprecedented rate. Maximizing the value of data collected in a variety of different tests through the use of common, compatible software will be key to delivering vehicle programs in a cost-effective and timely manner.
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