VW Takes ADAS Validation to Virtual World

The driver-assistance systems will learn from virtually generated driving situations. It is conceivable, the automaker says, that millions of miles of over-the-road testing could be conducted virtually.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

September 27, 2018

3 Min Read
VW begins using virtual test drives to accelerate ADAS development.
The software for the simulation of complex environments is being developed by experts from Group IT and Technical Development working together. From left: Kai Winnekens, Pooja Rangarajan, Eric Grayson und Maximilian Tegetmeier

Volkswagen plans to begin validating future advanced driver-assistance systems in the virtual world, a shift from traditional real-world analysis the German automaker believes will speed up the development process.

“We are continually developing Volkswagen vehicles and taking innovations into all segments,” says Frank Welsch, board member for Development at VW.

“We are building on our strong global development team and grasping all the opportunities offered by digitalization,” he says in a statement. “This also includes virtual validation. We are developing this technology for our work as it will make for faster and more efficient development processes.”

As part of its 2025 business plan, VW will invest $4 billion to digitize its operations under a single platform. The initiative is grounded in decisions to migrate away from its role as a traditional vehicle manufacturer to a mobility services provider, as well as switch to electric-vehicle technology after the Dieselgate scandal.

VW joins Daimler and other automakers such as General Motors and Ford remaking themselves in the face of new competition from Waymo, Uber, Lyft and other non-traditional mobility outfits.

The driver-assistance systems will learn from virtually generated driving situations. It is conceivable, the automaker says, that millions of miles of over-the-road testing could be conducted virtually.

The announcement comes as automakers and suppliers have realized that billions, not millions, of miles of validation will be necessary to bring autonomous vehicles to market in volume safely and confidently.

Chipmaker and artificial-intelligence-for-automotive expert NVIDIA, for example, has released its cloud-based Drive Constellation simulation system. Drive Constellation can run millions of miles more data for autonomous-vehicle testing and validation inside the lab and in a fraction of the time it takes on the road.

“You need billions of miles of test drives to actually show that (an AV) is safer than a human,” says Danny Shapiro, senior director-Automotive, at NVIDIA.

“Simulation now is the key. You can test whether they can handle these different situations,” he recently told an automotive management seminar.

Wally Rhines, CEO of Mentor, a Siemens company with expertise in hardware, software and data fusion for Level 5 AVs, says 1 million miles (1.61 million km) of testing does not make a company a leader in the field.

“The leader will be the company with virtual validation,” Rhines told an international forum on advanced automotive electronics last week.

VW says its experts have begun testing in-house software to permit virtual validation, and the software will be used for teaching assistants on its new family of I.D. models. The first I.D. model is due exclusively in Europe in 2019 and the U.S. in 2020.

VW_20ID_20Concept_20family_0.jpg

VW family of I.D. concept cars.

The software, VW says, can train an assistance system continuously over days and weeks in a 3-D environment under many different driving scenarios to accelerate development, but also to speed up development and validation of a rapidly growing number of vehicle systems and networks.

Called SimFAS, the high-powered software is being developed by VW Group IT and Technical Development with an eye on producing a virtual test for every possible driving situation. The simulation program will be linked to the Group IT cloud to leverage massive computing capabilities and will employ artificial intelligence, which would process data similar to real-world testing using hardware.

Other areas of product development where VW is examining the possibilities of digitalization include a virtual concept car. The concept car allows engineers to more fully experience and interact with the exterior, interior, instruments and multimedia systems, as well as modify them. It could lead to fewer costly physical prototypes, the automaker says.

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