Horiba MIRA’s Vision for World-Class AV Testing
Assured CAV, scheduled to open this year, is a new autonomous-vehicle development center with a lengthy list of assets and capabilities.
It is a bold company that uses the description “globally unique,” but that’s the label engineering research and test provider Horiba MIRA has attached to its new AV development center. Called Assured CAV (connected/automated vehicle), it is scheduled to formally open in March 2021 and cover multiple autonomous vehicle (AV) validation, verification and research, ranging from high-speed, at-the-limit controllability on its Highway system, to automated valet parking in a multi-story facility.
It will also offer urban environments, a 5G mobile private network supported by Vodafone, an extensive digital replicas portfolio to help enable scaled technology, and robotic targets and junction layouts to meet ADAS protocols. The Assured CAV facility has been designed to incorporate the world’s most advanced infrastructure and systems for developing self-driving vehicles.
As Head of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Horiba MIRA’s Chris Reeves is a key member of a highly specialized team that has steered the Assured CAV project towards what promises to offer significant support to AV development. He explained in an exclusive SAE International interview why it can be described as “globally unique,” and what he regarded as the three salient assets and capabilities of some 40 listed by the company.
Three key attributes
“First, ‘Highway,’ due to the impressive engineering and size of the facility, the type of surface installed, and the fact that we can have in action multiple uses/applications at once,” Reeves said. “Also, the flexibility-of-use cases that can be accommodated, enabling international OEMs, suppliers and consultancies to push the boundary of CAV testing in their own development cycles – from low levels of autonomy right through to full automation.”
Secondly, he chose the facility’s Vodafone-supported 5G network, which complements the physical environments with a powerful communication layer. “This technology really expands the application of Assured CAV and delivers on our vision of providing an ecosystem where customers can be confident their products are safe, secure and robust,” Reeves explained.
“A car now is likely to be the biggest consumer-electronic purchase due to its connectivity and embedded electronic systems,” Reeves noted. “Increasingly, vehicles will rely on data in order to perform tasks – whether it’s over-the-air updates, safety-critical messaging to warn of upcoming hazards, taking avoiding action – or just streaming infotainment for passengers.” Demonstrating that these systems are secure is critical to ensuring consumer acceptance, which can be achieved via Assured CAV, he added.
And thirdly, Reeves chose the complex’s multi-story parking facility, which the company regards as being “like no other.” Explained Reeves: “As far as we know, it’s the world’s-only dedicated private test facility for validating and verifying automated valet parking solutions. It’s likely this application will be one of the first ‘fully automated’ use cases available to consumers, with many OEMs looking to implement it over the next five years.”
Asked what made Horiba MIRA’s validation ecosystems significant on an international scale, Alastair Evanson, head of commercial & business development, Assured CAV, sees them as being not only a powerhouse but a “lighthouse” location – somewhere that can not only develop the technology but also educate and influence. He cited the facilities’ environments for proving-out technologies such as collision avoidance and safety systems at high speed, or at lower speeds in urban environments.
“It includes testing of navigation and perception systems and identifying hazards, together with communications testing compatibility of vehicle-to-vehicle systems and infrastructure,” Evanson said. To ensure real-world testing is embraced, the company also has an AV-enabled public road network of more than 300 km (186 miles) adjoining the site, enabling products to be tested on a lengthy journey from a controlled, closed-loop environment straight onto an open-loop public environment with its associated scenarios.
With its diverse testing capabilities, Reeves and Evanson regard Assured CAV’s raison d’être as creating a foundation on which to build consumer acceptance and confidence, together with insurance/legal requirements, in an autonomous-transport world. Evanson described Assured CAV as a “powerhouse” of collaborators.
“The mass adoption of connected and automated technology is now also a multi-sector challenge. In order to gain that consumer acceptance and realize the true benefits from this technology, we need a combination of players including automotive and their supply chains, technology providers (i.e. Vodafone), infrastructure custodians (i.e. road authorities), and importantly, insurance and legal requirements,” he said. Evanson also pointed out he sees Assured CAV as being somewhere that can not only develop the technology but also educate and influence insurance companies and policy makers on how the technology will behave in the public domain.
As with other proving grounds, Horiba MIRA stressed the need for it to be closely involved in future vehicle development programs from concept to production fruition. Reeves was emphatic that currently, this generally is not the case. “Assured CAV will build on our trusted engineering and consultancy expertise by providing the physical, virtual and communication environments to ensure we can offer an end-to-end service,” he said. “Users from across the industry spectrum are welcome to bring their own vehicles, technology and prototypes to prove them out across our ecosystem.”
“But when they run into challenges or are perhaps a new entrant into the autonomy market, we’re on hand to provide them with our expertise and guide them through the journey of designing, building, validating and verifying their connected autonomous technology,” he continued. “With COVID and Brexit challenges, the world has changed. It’s not as easy or as cheap now to send products and teams across borders to test in multiple locations. But with our new Assured CAV, we have a single location which can satisfy those needs.”