Simulation is Required to Test and Certify Autonomous Vehicles

Driving Simulation Image

Driving Simulation

Driving simulation could be new market for mobile laser scanned data, but it has to be in the standard format.

Global Highway Mapping Standard

In a recent conversation with Stuart Woods, Vice President at Leica Geosystems we discussed a number of important information resources relating to the use of simulation in order to support the research, testing and development of autonomous vehicles; as well as ideas about how all of the various highway-related data initiatives are going to fit together.

First the latter, Stuart is advocating for a standard, 3D highway smart data deliverable that does not require investing in a full blown BIM, or asset management system – something that customers are willing and able to invest in today. Leica Geosystems is now offering SiRoadScan, an automated, batch extraction software that could perhaps support that standard and others (see below). Stuart goes on to say that “…perhaps it’s time for a global standard which contains a matrix of common deliverables and provides a similar role as OpenDrive does for the autonomous car industry.”

Driving Simulator Standard

What is OpenDrive? It’s an XML (could there be a link with TransXML) data standard that has been around since 2006. It describes a road network’s logic in such a way that all driving simulators can correctly interpret the data. That sounds promising.

From Wikipedia, “The OpenDRIVE files are designed to describe entire road networks with respect to all data belonging to the road environment.”A look at the list of features supported by the OpenDRIVE format reveals that they are very similar to what is being collected with mobile scanners and included in a HD map.

Why is this important? Experienced transportation experts know that it is simply not possible to produce the real world, millions of miles of testing a month that are going to be needed to support the research and certification of autonomous vehicles.

Perhaps the OpenDRIVE format can become an output from SiRoadScan and other feature extraction programs. This could open up an entirely new market for laser scanned data and bring together key stakeholders.

One other piece of the puzzle is the driving simulator software itself. MSC Software, a part of Hexagon, currently specializes in building simulation software for the manufacturing industry. Perhaps they could be convinced to look at driving simulators.

The Future

As we are beginning to see there is much more involved in the autonomous vehicle industry and the highway system needed to support it than most of us in the mapping business realize.

The grand vision of where this all might be going, at least from the point of view of Hexagon, parent of Leica Geosystems and MSC is Xalt which Ola Rollen unveiled in June at HxGN Live. It’s important for the CEO to provide this long term direction.

In the meantime, it is up to all of us to do what we can to streamline the process of getting there. Standards are critical to that process, at least they have been in most other industries. We need industry leadership, as we saw last week with the WGIC. A handful of motivated CEOs could make a big difference.


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