Level 4 commercial vehicle automation tested in one of North America’s largest proving grounds

July 31, 2020
Plus.ai will conduct capability tests of a new self-driving system.

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, North America’s largest vehicle test facility welcomes a self-driving prototype, Audi announces a drone vehicle location system, and the company Parrot works with the French government to define drone regulations.

Plus.ai, Transportation Research Center partnering to conduct capability tests of Plus.ai's self-driving system

Plus.ai has announced an agreement with North America’s largest independent vehicle test facility and proving grounds, the Transportation Research Center (TRC), to conduct capability tests of Plus.ai’s self-driving system using a rigorous multi-vehicle approach.

Expected to break new ground in Level 4 commercial vehicle testing, this test program will utilize a multi-vehicle test approach to simulate complex, real-world driving conditions. Current published standards only require a single other vehicle test, Plus.ai notes.

“Our team has been obsessing over every detail to build a safe and reliable self-driving system for trucks. Safety permeates everything we do, from software architecture, to redundant systems validation, to operator training and vehicle testing,” explains Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder, Plus.ai.

“We believe an independent party should validate a self-driving system’s road readiness using realistic, complex scenarios, much like humans have to pass driving tests in order to be licensed. We hope this becomes a model for the testing of all automated trucks in the future.”

Leveraging nearly 50 years of experience testing and perfecting new products for automotive and technology companies across the globe, TRC designed and implemented Plus.ai’s safety tests. During testing, the Plus.ai self-driving system’s ability to consistently handle multiple vehicle scenarios that best simulate complex, realistic driving conditions will be evaluated.

An example of this is the Plus.ai driving system being tasked with having to predict how the vehicles will react to each other, which allows it to plan a safe way to control the truck in response. According to Plus.ai, this is a “more rigorous” test of the perception, prediction, and planning systems, involving aspects that would not be tested in a single other vehicle approach.

Tests will be conducted on the highway in both free-flowing and stop-and-go traffic. Other testing scenarios will involve construction zones, disabled vehicles, and bicycles, to name a few. These scenarios will be repeated for different weather conditions and a range of visibility and lighting.

“Our team has been working tirelessly to develop world class facilities, techniques, and technical expertise to evaluate automated driving systems,” says Brett Roubinek, president and CEO of TRC Inc.

“We are excited to welcome Plus.ai to TRC, and to execute a battery of tests using our full set of tools, and pushing the limits of commercial vehicle testing.”

Plus.ai notes that its testing program builds upon the existing standards, protocols and safety ratings created by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), and standards developers such as the Society of Automotive Engineers. Plus.ai says that the planned testing is the first phase of a more comprehensive and ongoing test program that will build on this experience to ensure Plus.ai’s self-driving system is safe and validated for commercialization.

Audi using drone vehicle location system at manufacturing facility

German car manufacturer Audi has announced that it is using a drone vehicle location system at one of its manufacturing facilities.

Using GPS and RFID technology, the drone, custom-designed autonomous hexacopter, identifies and saves the exact position of every vehicle it flies over. Audi then uses this information in planning the completion and delivery of the vehicles.

“The fast locating of the vehicles creates even higher process quality and is a further stepping stone on the path to digital production,” says Steffen Conrad, project manager in innovation management at the site.

“The drone provides support from a completely new perspective. We will now share our experiences with other Audi sites and within the VW Group.”

The pilot project is currently being transferred to permanent series testing. Experts at the Neckarsulm site will use the permanent series testing as an opportunity to gather further experience. The hope is that the drones will be used to locate vehicles at other Audi sites in the future.

Four Audi employees have been trained and have the necessary drone license.

Parrot works with French authorities and regulators to address progressing UAS regulations in France

To address the rapidly progressing drone regulations in France, Parrot has announced that it has worked closely with French authorities and regulators.

Parrot notes that as the drone industry continues to grow, safety and security continue to be a major concern for all stakeholders in the industry. New regulations govern the design and use of drones, so Parrot is working with French authorities and regulators to ensure a consistent transition for everyone, including users.

The company adds that it guarantees all its users the highest level of privacy and security protection by being in full compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“Parrot ensures the cybersecurity of its drones and protects the data they capture by preserving the privacy of each user. Only data that the user agrees to share with Parrot is collected,” says Victor Vuillard, chief security officer for Parrot.

“As an open source drone company, the implementation of the remote electronic identification system is essential to help civil security services improve security, the serene sharing of airspace, and the social acceptance of drones, while being transparent with our users.”

In Dec. 2019, the Ministries of the Interior, Economy and Finance, Ecological Transition and Transport published an order defining the technical characteristics of electronic and luminous identification systems for aircraft operating without a person on board. The order, which was expected to go into effect in June 2020, requires drones that weigh more than 800 grams (1.7 pounds) to have an electronic identification system, as well as a luminous identification system for drones that fly at night.

Through a simple and free software update, an electronic identification system that meets regulatory requirements has been integrated onto the Parrot Bluegrass and Bluegrass Fields drones. This update was made available to users at the beginning of this month. Through the existing Wi-Fi system (Beacon Wi-Fi), the drone locally and automatically broadcasts its electronic identification message.

Parrot says that it has decided to offer the same electronic identification feature throughout its ANAFI range of drones to provide the best possible assistance to civil security and to promote the visibility of drones in the airspace. Like the Bluegrass and Bluegrass Fields drones, the installation process will also be through a simple and free software update, with the possibility for the user to activate or deactivate the feature manually via the FreeFlight 6 interface. Parrot notes that since the ANAFI range is below the regulatory threshold of 800 grams, the DRI function is deactivated by default.

“Parrot is taking an active part in the technical work on Drone regulation and normalization because we are convinced that it is essential to establish a safe framework for the operation of drones and the sharing of airspace,” says Manuel Le Bail, Quality and Certification director for Parrot. “By taking part in these initiatives, Parrot is going ahead of the regulations to improve the safety of people and aircraft.”

Compiled by Brian Sprowl, Associate Editor, AUVSI

Share your vision-related news by contacting Dennis Scimeca, Associate Editor, Vision Systems Design


Voice Your Opinion

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vision Systems Design, create an account today!