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rFpro simulator software for ADAS/autonomous vehicle development features low-latency, high-quality graphics for improved testing

rFpro, a provider of Driver-In-The-Loop simulators for vehicle dynamics engineering, is offering driving simulator software, originally developed for Formula 1, that will enable vehicle manufacturers to test ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) technologies more accurately than before. The company says that many of the challenges faced by ADAS developers can be reduced by validating the control system response more comprehensively with a driver-in-the-loop (DIL) prior to installation on the vehicle.

The upsurge of interest in autonomous driving and ADAS systems has brought a corresponding increase in the demand for testing in order to confirm behavior and validate their response to the unpredictable conditions encountered on public roads. The factors limiting virtual testing in conventional simulation environments have been relatively low graphics quality and poor latency, resulting in a system too slow to use in an emergency maneuver, rFpro says.

rFpro overview, Nordschleife highlights, Urban Traffic ADAS, Spa and Monaco. This video showcases the key areas where rFpro is being used by Automotive OEMs and in Motorsport.

The Nordschleife is probably the most popular test circuit for OEMs looking to test their sports and GT models’ ride and handling at limit performance. This is followed by an Urban scenario imported to rFpro from a professional Traffic solution, being used to test ADAS solutions with a human driver in control.

The video finishes with a clip from Eau Rouge at Spa and a lap of Monaco. rFpro is used by most of the F1 teams and NASCAR manufacturers for engineering development and testing of their new cars and setups. Click to enlarge.

While most OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers have successfully adopted a model-based engineering process for the development of their ADAS control systems, conventional graphical simulation environments cannot respond fast enough to cope with the highly dynamic maneuvers experienced when testing safety systems, rFpro says. rFpro’s solution was developed from the ground up to deliver driving simulation for vehicle dynamics applications and allows OEMs to re-introduce professional human test drivers into the model-based development process.

Autonomous systems must make split-second decisions, just like the drivers they protect, so they can only be tested effectively with graphics software that refreshes quickly enough. Our system delivers the graphics up to 100 milliseconds faster than typical 3D engineering graphics, which is equivalent to a car length travelled at highway speeds; this can make the difference between reacting before or after an impact.

—rFpro’s technical director Chris Hoyle

Apart from the improved speed of response, rFpro’s software provides much higher quality graphics: essential when testing an autonomous system’s ability to distinguish between features with a similar appearance. Real-world lighting conditions create complex shadows that can confuse ADAS camera systems, Hoyle explains.

Winter sunlight, low in the sky, can generate shadows from roadside objects such as crash barrier uprights, which the system then confuses with lane markings. This type of situation can be investigated and corrected by testing with our simulation software. New solutions from PreScan and IPG allow our graphics to be fed straight to the control systems being tested, improving the quality of information delivered compared to the traditional approach of pointing a camera at a computer generated display.

—Chris Hoyle

Another key aspect of ADAS development is interaction with the driver of the vehicle who may panic or behave unpredictably during emergency avoidance, instinctively grabbing the steering wheel or fighting the system. Evaluating this type of interaction with a simulator also requires high graphics quality (to provide convincing realism) and low latency (to provide lag-free feedback to the driver).

Testing autonomous systems without a DIL will inevitably lead to inaccurate results. A computer will respond to an emergency situation consistently linearly, a human does the opposite. So it is essential to test these systems with a driver’s response in a safe environment before testing on public roads.

In an ironic twist, the same software developed to make DIL simulators effective in allowing a human driver to interact with a virtual car, is now helping to develop ADAS technologies that take the driver ‘out’ of the loop in an emergency. The benefits are very similar: the human-machine interface can be explored repeatedly under controlled conditions, including any changes required, in complete safety.

—Chris Hoyle

To deliver complete DIL simulators for the engineering development of vehicle dynamics, and the control systems and active safety systems that affect vehicle dynamics, rFpro works in partnership with motion platform providers such as McLaren, Ansible Motion and MOOG. The company’s products can wrap around vehicle models from all the popular modeling environments, including Dymola, SIMPACK, Simulink, AVL-VSM, CarSim, CarMaker, LMS AMESim, VI-Grade and C/C++.

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