Realistic digital autonomous vehicle test environment developed

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Driving simulation software specialist, rFpro, has launched what it claims to be the world’s first commercially available simulation platform for developing autonomous vehicles. According to the company, this digital environment – the result of three years of development – can be used by vehicle manufacturers to accurately to test their systems in “every real-world scenario imaginable”, without the risks of sending prototypes out into the real world.

“Autonomous vehicles are the future, the market is expected to be worth up to US$10 trillion, but debate is rising about whether these vehicles should be allowed on our roads, and if not, how do we develop them?” said Chris Hoyle, rFpro’s 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, are already approaching the level required to achieve a fully autonomous world, but it is the ‘brain’, the vehicles’ ability to make appropriate decisions, that needs to be further developed.”

The company states that the platform has a sufficient level of accuracy to realistically simulate the real world, meaning that the test results produced will be completely representative. The simulation is based around a library of ‘real’ roads created through precise scanning of roads, and users can control variables such as traffic, pedestrians, weather and location.

“By using multiple computers 24/7, manufacturers can undertake millions of miles of testing every month,” added Hoyle. “Humans can also be introduced into the simulation, controlling surrounding cars or pedestrians, so we can assess an autonomous vehicle’s decision making capability and also the interaction between the vehicle and the driver, but most importantly it is carried out in a safe environment.”

According to rFpro, the technology has been adopted by two “major vehicle manufacturers” and three autonomous car developers, as well as by a driver-less motorsport series.

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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