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The role of simulation in the development of autonomous vehicles

Around 1.25 million people die in road accidents each year worldwide, the vast majority are the result of human error. Above human lives, these traffic accidents cost around $ 277 billion per year.

Congestion, traffic jams and delays also go with high expenditures – drivers waste more than 3 billion liters of fuel and spend nearly 7 billion extra hours in their cars due to traffic congestion.

By eliminating human error, autonomous vehicle technology can solve these safety, economic and transport related problems.

Autonomous vehicles promote traffic safety and reduce the risk of traffic congestion; however, the development of these vehicles is challenging. The biggest challenge is that this type of vehicle is supposed to undergo approximately 8.8 billion miles of testing to declare: it can safely run on the road.

While the challenges are significant, the benefits of these self-driving vehicles – in terms of safety and productivity – can be enormous.

Simulation makes the development of self-driving vehicles more economical

Simulations reduce the time and cost of autonomous vehicles’ development process

In order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by self-driving vehicles, it is essential for car manufacturers and suppliers to develop reliable and safe technology.

Self-driving vehicles must be taught and tested in order to be able to respond and react appropriately to all situations in traffic. This will require the creation and testing of a multitude of millions of scenarios, which will be a major defiance even for market-leading companies in the technology industry.

This is why testing and training greatly extend the development cycle. As you may have read before, these self-driving vehicles have to be tested on  8.8 billion miles to declare that they run safely on the road. By comparison, Waymo – Google’s previous self-driving car project –  conducted just 20 million miles of physical road test.

How can this process be accelerated?

Simulation will play a key role in the near future- vehicle designers can use advanced simulation tools to test quickly and cost-effectively different scenarios and situations. This not only speeds up the development process, but also reduces the need for real, physical road tests.

For example, model-based development tools allow designers to create software for autonomous vehicles that are less prone to failure and have proven to be much more robust and safer on the road. With such tools, development time can be halved and savings of about 40% on code validation and verification costs can be realized.

Using simulation technology, companies can become market leaders in the technology industry

Advantages of simulation

The calculations are performed in a virtual environment, which provides a faster and cheaper solution – it also delivers more physical backround data than a real-world testing. This is the only practical way to analyze the performance of self-driving vehicles during billions of test driving miles.

As a result, simulation:

  • ensures faster go-to-market
  • reduces costs
  • improves the product quality

With simulation , the companies can quickly and cost-effectively conduct the design research needed to develop a wide range of self-driving vehicle technologies (such as lithium-ion batteries and LIDAR systems).

Virtual computing also provides solution to a number of other challenges related to self-driving vehicle development. It allows developers to test millions of driving situations to validate in-vehicle intelligent sensors, actuators, LIDAR (light-radar) sensors and cameras. Furthermore, the simulation can even facilitate the development and testing of complex automatic driving control software.

The development of autonomous vehicles is also a major challenge as for the large vehicle fleet and the computaional resources. Test fleets worldwide generate several petabytes* of data per day that need to be processed by multiple teams working parallely. Any innovations or changes made during the development cycle may require additional planning.

By eliminating human error, self-driving vehicles solve various transport, safety and economic problems we have to face

Overcoming challenges

Self-driving vehicles are expected to knock the traiditonal car market over, offering companies the opportunity to fight for dominant market position.

Therefore the rapid development of these innovative and secure technologies will be essential. Simulation is the only efficient and effective solution to overcome the challenges that businesses face in developing and testing different technlogies.


* Petabyte (PB) = 1015 byte