Choreographed Robotic ADAS Testing Bridges Gap Between Simulations and Real World
ASI’s Swarming technology allows collision-avoidance and other tests at high speeds on vehicles that human drivers find hard to match.
A Utah company has developed a system to allow fully robotic testing of ADAS on production vehicles as one solution to the dangers of testing such systems with human drivers at high speeds and in real traffic.
At the 2022 Automotive Testing Expo in Novi, Mich., ASI Automotive Product Manager Jed Judd talked about the system, called Swarming, and its control software Mobius. He said the company’s development is a response to OEMs finding that simulation testing alone isn’t enough for advanced ADAS. He also said that even professional human drivers have difficulty hitting different test scenarios accurately due to what he called “a significant pucker factor” at high speeds.
Judd said that the Swarming technology allows multiple fully robotic scenario-inducing vehicles to simultaneously test multiple ADAS components in highly repeatable fashion on test surfaces like those at OEM proving facilities. Those robot-driven vehicles — and the OEM models being tested — are monitored by the Mobius software. So, for instance, in a scenario where two OEM vehicles are in separate lanes, ASI-robot-controlled cars could simultaneously test responses to being “cut off” by a vehicle while also overtaking another vehicle.
In most tests, Mobius controls the test vehicle until it is up to speed and in the correct position. The software then hands over control to the ADAS-equipped vehicle being tested. Those scenarios can be directly imported from simulations, enabling near-real-world testing of the simulation results.
Why is this robotic approach an important option? The robotic systems are capable of far more accurately and repeatedly matching the positioning of simulations than are human-driven vehicles, especially at high speeds. For instance, in a simple test to determine an adaptive cruise control’s response to an aggressive cut-in, the cut-in distance between vehicles decreases as speeds increase. It’s just another scenario for the robot driver – but a human driver might involuntarily attempt to make the maneuver safer.
This, Judd said, tests entire ADAS, and not just individual components. “It’s safe, repeatable testing that is a key step to the future,” he said. “Any realistic testing of ADAS requires highly competent professional drivers. The robots are those professional drivers.” The robots also are capable of performing multiple tests without fatigue, increasing testing efficiency and allowing concurrent testing of component durability.
A “smart stopping” feature allows Mobius to use vehicle-to-vehicle communication to halt all vehicles (including OEM test vehicles) safely in the event a test strays beyond parameters or becomes otherwise unsafe.
A May 2022 study by AAA said that while driver assistance systems generally are improving in slower-speed and “obvious” scenarios, such as a car stopping suddenly in front of a vehicle, that far more progress must be made in more difficult scenarios, such as a wrong-way driver or a vehicle ahead changing lanes to suddenly reveal a stationary vehicle.
“We can rapidly test these edge-case scenarios,” Judd said. “At the end of the day, our solution lets you test the vehicles, and not their human drivers.”
ASI states that the Mobius Swarming software can control up to 20 vehicles at a time and test at speeds of 25 to 75 mph (40-120 kph). The software can also coordinate multiple scenarios and switch to new ones with a single click.
The company also has its own proving grounds and currently is testing in the “[SAE] L2-plus arena with a major OEM,” for ADAS production validation, Judd said, asserting that Swarming is ready to move on to testing at SAE Level 3 and higher.