Publication Name: autotechreview.com
Date: February 2017
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Held in January every year in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is widely known to showcase leading consumer electronics technologies from across the globe. However, for the past few editions, the show has had a large presence of, and participation from, the automotive industry. The message is twofold – technologies that once belonged largely in the home environment have now entered the automotive domain as well, and cars are now more about electronics (entertainment, navigation, connectivity, sound & display and so on..) and technology than ever before.
Tata Elxsi showcased some of its newest solutions for the automotive sector at CES 2017, mainly in the areas of in-vehicle communication, infotainment, active safety and autonomous driving. Nitin Pai, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, Tata Elxsi Ltd, took us through some of the company's recent innovations showcased at CES, and spoke of the direction of the adoption of such technologies in the automotive sector. Pai said that the main reason for the participation of automotive companies at CES is due to the increasing overlap of technologies from the consumer electronics sector and the automotive sector, which is causing disruption.
ELECTRONICS IN AUTOMOTIVE
There are two angles to the trend of electronics entering the automotive sector, noted Pai. The first is from the communications perspective, where the two main implications are connected cars and telematics. Their purposes are different in the sense that a connected car delivers a set of conveniences to its occupants, in terms of infotainment, navigation and other localised services. Meanwhile, telematics is mainly intended for vehicle diagnostics, data analysis and software updates.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), or active safety is the second trend that is driving companies towards increasing the electronics component in modern cars. ADAS features will begin with driver assist, where the car only helps the driver in taking decisions, said Pai. He went on to say that in the future it will move to full autonomy, where the car will be the driver, and the driver will only assist. However, there are multiple stages in between these two extremes. Additionally, there are a set of technologies that will go into ADAS or autonomous driving, namely V2X (vehicle-to-everything), data processing, signal acquisition and processing, and video analytics. The enabling technologies for V2X, for example, include radar, sonar, ultrasonic sensors and imaging cameras, which mimic human behaviour in terms of perception.
Pai said that traditionally, car makers are not used to communications, analytics or video technologies. These are all technologies that have come from other industries, many of which are from the consumer technologies space. Therefore, CES is a way for automotive companies to bridge the blurring gap between a consumer device and the automotive world.
INNOVATIONS AT CES 2017
Tata Elxsi picked up four main lines to showcase at CES 2017, the first being infotainment systems. Pai said that the infotainment system typically includes a digital instrument cluster and, sometimes, Heads-Up Display (HUD), which is for the use of the driver, as well as for rear-seat entertainment. The idea is to integrate these individual components into a system in the best possible package, providing optimum levels of information and entertainment, with high levels of safety and security. For this, the company displayed its 'e-Cockpit' integrated cockpit software solution, which provides a next-generation user experience and security, is compatible with multiple operating systems and is compliant with ASIL-B standards.
Pai explained that the necessity for compatibility with multiple operating systems is from the perspective of security. One operating system of this virtual system is purely safety-critical, while the other runs the media and entertainment elements. The Automotive Safety Integrity Level, or ASIL-B standard, ensures this system has the required levels of functional safety for road vehicles as necessary, for highly-secure systems. Pai said that e-Cockpit is a software solution, which is a completely-integrated middleware that allows driving of the functionality and the user experience necessary for an automotive cockpit. It integrates the cluster, head unit and HUD, all of which runs on a single processor from Renesas.
The second area of focus at CES was that of open In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) software platform, which is compliant with GENIVI 10.0. Right now, all infotainment systems are proprietary and closed systems, for which apps and updates can only be developed by the company that made the system in the first place, noted Pai. Tata Elxsi is working with the GENIVI standard, which is a consortium of automotive OEMs and suppliers, building something for automotive applications that would be similar to what Android is to mobile phones. It is Linux-based and builds all open source components required for media, communications and infotainment, with the company making a complete reference platform based on that standard.
This platform also allows developments where apps can be used to control various functions of the car, with the possibility of OTA updates. The company is even using this platform to develop features that provide information on driver health, through the use of sensors embedded in components like the steering wheel or the seats.
The next technology showcased is called Autonomai, which is the company's autonomous vehicle middleware platform, with deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Pai said that this product can be used by OEMs to begin development of their autonomous architectures, and can be used in environments like farm equipment, since there is less human obstruction. ADAS is hard-wired, where algorithms are taught to behave in one way alone, while autonomous driving will not only have all this built in, but also needs to be capable of learning over time, explained Pai. This, he said, is the difference between ADAS and autonomous driving, for which Tata Elxsi has built in Deep Learning and AI into each algorithm. The inputs received from various sensors are processed by the Autonomai Sensor Fusion Engine and then go to the drive-by-wire system carrying out the actual autonomous driving.
For component suppliers looking at developing products for autonomous vehicles, the company has provided a full-autonomous platform, which is also supplied with an adaptation kit to drive different components. The kit provides the hardware to perform drive-by-wire-functions, while the software platform gives the components the intelligence to drive, Pai said. He added that this is the first time that Tata Elxsi has supplied component manufacturers with such technology, and showcased it at CES.
V2X, FOR COMMUNICATION
Finally, the fourth main technology showcased by the company was that of the V2X Emulator that is Tata Elxsi's integrated test solution for V2X feature validation. Pai said that the company believed V2X will be the complimentary aspect of autonomous vehicles and ADAS. V2X will be used by vehicles to communicate with each other, and with the infrastructure. The Tata Elxsi V2X Emulator simulates real-world conditions for multiple vehicle movement, network conditions and GPS connectivity. This product was developed in partnership with Spirent Technologies, and allows simulation of up to 100 vehicles or units, along with network conditions. The main benefit of this system is the ability to test at every phase of the development cycle before reaching real field trials.
In addition to these technologies, certain other developments of the company were in the area of test systems for ADAS, other development systems and AUTOSAR 4.2.2. Tata Elxsi partnered with a luxury car manufacturer from Germany who wanted to develop AUTOSAR 4.2.2. so that it can be implemented for the development of upcoming autonomous vehicles. Tata Elxsi will jointly own rights of this, and the ability to licence to its own customers, noted Pai.
In the Indian context, the main challenge with the adoption of autonomous driving is the need for regulations, said Pai. Ha added that although standards for V2X are at different levels of readiness even across the globe, India is not even on the map for V2X at present. Standards in the automotive industry will come in terms of electric vehicles for charging units and infrastructure, and for safety and emissions in the case of internal combustion powertrains. Pai noted that India will be a follower in terms of adopting standards.
Additionally, there is a need to develop algorithms that are trained for Indian conditions in terms of recognising traffic signs, road marking and lane detection, as well as object classification and detection. Pai said that there is also a need to build databases of the different types of references for emerging markets. Tata Elxsi is building up a database called Regional Validation Datasets, so that systems can be validated for regional conditions.
Tata Elxsi is carrying out advanced research and development for future vehicle models that are expected to be launched in 2025. It is working in the areas of autonomous vehicles, integrated cockpits, multi-modal interfaces, and algorithms for electric, hybrid and ADAS. Pai said that India plays a strong role in the development of various technologies, especially with global manufacturers bringing in captive centres here, with which the company carries out a lot of work. He concluded that the automotive industry needs to mature and move to more open sourcing, which would grow the speed of development subsequently.