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Autonomous Vehicles

Toyo Turns Regular Vehicles Into Simulators

When you’re testing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous vehicle prototypes, or just vehicles in general, it makes sense to do a lot of the most dangerous work in simulations. An early autonomous system can be very unpredictable, or as Tesla says in its disclaimer, they can “do the wrong thing at the worst time.” So, autonomous vehicle companies are doing a lot of simulator work before even putting a system on a vehicle to prepare the software for the real world. At the most extreme, Tesla is building a wildly capable supercomputer to do this training work.

But, sooner or later, you need to validate your work on the road. Research shows that a system that makes mistakes regularly keeps a driver on their toes, but systems that work really well and only make a mistake very occasionally can lull a human test driver into a false sense of security that can lead to death and destruction on the roads. So, you need to be able to come up with a test that’s somewhere between a simulation and the real world.

That’s what Toyo came up with.

“A key to closing this transaction was the proof-of-concept (POC) evaluation that the automaker partook in with our technology partner, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee (ORNL). As a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, ORNL maintains a TOYO-supplied ViLS in DOE’s National Transportation Research Center at ORNL to support such endeavors. During the POC, the automaker validated requirements and witnessed first-hand the ViLS in operation with their electric vehicle,” said Bo Han, CEO of TOYOTech. “We are grateful to ORNL for supporting the POC and look forward to assisting with the deployment and commissioning of the ViLSs at the customer site.”

 

The system is actually pretty cool. It takes the real vehicle and inserts it into a simulation. You can remove the wheels and connect the hubs directly to dynamometers (commonly called “dynos” by enthusiasts). This not only allows you to measure output, but also make the vehicle work harder as if it were going up hills, or give the vehicle some help (as if you’re going downhill). The options here are myriad.

The vehicle and/or driver can be fed simulated imagery, simulated radar imagery, and other inputs. This allows manufacturers and testing companies to move toward the real world, make sure key systems are working in the vehicle, and help make updates before the rubber literally hits the road.

This also doesn’t appear to be an all or nothing proposition. You can slowly introduce more or less simulated elements as needed, because the system is modular and upgradeable.

Most importantly, you’re testing systems that are actually mounted in a vehicle, and not simulated in a virtual environment in some computer. This gives you better opportunity to make sure there are no serious mechanical or software problems before you put the vehicle on expensive test tracks and then public roads. Not only could this save money, but it could also save lives.

You can get more details on the system here, at Toyo’s website.

All images by Toyo.

 
 
 
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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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