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automotive electronics Porsche rainmaker advocates platooning By Christoph Hammerschmidt Individual mobility as our fathers knew it gets increasingly challenged. Traffic density, pollutant emissions and other ecologic problems afflict the automotive industry. To some extend, new forms of traffic organisation could relief the situations. Armin Müller, one of the thought leaders of sports car manufacturer Porsche has a surprising suggestion: Platooning. In times when new players such as Google (and perhaps soon, Apple) are entering the automotive market, the traditional top dogs are becoming thoughtful. As a matter of fact, the entire European automotive industry currently is in search mode for solutions to the challenges of the automotive markets of the future. At the recent annual Euroforum Automotive Electronics congress in Munich, this was also the case. Armin Müller who oversees strategic future projects Porsche, analysed the situation. Given the incredible awesome of the markets in China and the mega traffic streams it is expected to generate, it is obvious that the market will be much different from today. More roads and highways are not a solution, Müller conceded. Ecologic compatibility is becoming a must even for sports car makers. From the perspective of the powertrain, plug-in hybrids will be the most promising solution, Müller explained, because they reduce the effective fuel consumption significantly. Battery electric vehicles are no solution, at least for the time being. “As long as the driving range is not good enough, they won’t see acceptance at the markets”, Müller stated. The throughput of motorways could be maximised without high investments into traffic infrastructure by establishing platooning as a standard option for highway travel, Müller suggested. Platooning has already been tested successfully by fellow carmaker (and to a certain extend, competitor) Volvo. With platooning, cars organise themselves in groups with the leading vehicle assuming the control over the speed for a certain time or distance. Merging into the platoon is done electronically with existing distance sensors and inter-vehicle communications; once logged into the platoon, the vehicle could drive along to a large extend automatically. All vehicles but the leader benefit from driving in the slipstream of the vehicle in front which already helps to reduce fuel consumption. More relevant however is the fact that all vehicles are moving along at the same speed and at short distances. Thus, the capacity of the motorways is utilised much better than with today’s individual (and most of the time, a bit chaotic) traffic. The effective capacity per lane could be multiplied massively, Müller worked out. What’s more, this mild form of automated driving would increase traffic safety significantly, Müller explained. “In the US alone, we see 3000 traffic fatalities caused by inattentive driving”, he said, suggesting that this type of traffic organisation could reduce this figure drastically. To make this way of travelling possible, some conditions need to be met. The availability of V2X communications is one of these requirements. “We need standards, complete network coverage and assessment methods for the safety of such systems”, he said. Also the legal conditions have to be modified accordingly. Platooning of course does not put an end to individual responsibility and control. Once a participant has reached the motorway exit of his destination, he withdraws from the platoon and continues the travel in the conventional way. Something different probably would not be imaginable for a dyed-in-the-wool sports car manufacturer. Parrot takes instant 3D mapping to the sky By Julien Happich On nVidia’s booth at embedded world, a robot arm was swinging a stereo camera assembly, in a drone-like fashion, demonstrating Parrot’s software capabilities to turn cheap stereovision into real-time 3D mapping using nVidia’s Jetson TK1 development kit. Not relying on any other sensors but lowcost cameras and an inertial motion unit, the demo was reconstructing the scene in front of the swinging arm, a small Lego house complete with furniture and Lego dolls and displaying the 3D results as seen from the drone’s perspective. Whilst Parrot already makes 3D mapping commercially available through heavy postflight image processing, the novelty here is that the topological reconstruction is done on-board and in real-time. The 3D mapping is synchronized with the IMU data so as to always present the environment relative to the drone’s position. From watching the demo, one could appreciate the precision of the reconstructed 3D landscape, increasing as the drone accumulated views and extended its field of view. Arguably, the 3D mapped environment could be streamed to the drone operator, but more likely and more useful, it could be used automatically by a self-aware drone to avoid obstacles and navigate into complex and unchartered 3D mazes. Now, nVidia didn’t want to reveal exactly what Parrot is aiming at, but claimed a mapping resolution down to 1cm within a 5m range while processing 1280x720p resolution video at 30 frames per second (the depth being extracted from black & white frames). Then a trade-off can be made between the speed of acquisition and the level of resolution, which could mean faster 3D mapping for large obstacle collision avoidance scenarios in the automotive sector, only using cheap stereo cameras for ADAS. Other speculative use cases for this application could include generic 3D mapping as an extension of Google’s StreetView, automated indoor and outdoor architectural exploration or ready-to-3D-print landmark data acquisition. 18 Electronic Engineering Times Europe March 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


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