The development of autonomous systems was all we talked about in the pre-COVID era. Life certainly has changed a lot. While the pundits and analysts will be busy studying the overall long-term impact on the industry and revising their projections of when autonomous systems will become a reality, the impact on the development community is immediate. This article looks at some of the impacts, as well as opportunities for the development community to not let this crisis go to waste. An outcome that is better for us all can be realized.

New emerging autonomous applications

During these precarious times, we have all started appreciating delivery services of all sorts, including for groceries. Will this go away once this crisis subsides, or have we all grown to appreciate this convenience for the price of a delivery fee and the added benefit of time saved from this weekly chore?

Manual shopping and deliveries today can be made efficient through automation. Yes, automated robots filling the orders in warehouses and delivering to our front doors on the other end. Touchless is the new name of the game, and there is plenty of room for AI (artificial intelligence) and autonomous inventions. I am sure there is a business case to be made here. Some other automation opportunities could arise in the area of healthcare, within nursing, and more. In both China and the U.S. there were deployments of new autonomous vehicles to deliver food, medical supplies, etc., though on a small scale.

Likewise, some of the already under-development applications of autonomous trucking and farming will start gaining ground. With new limitations in place on travel, migration of labor, and availability of workforce, we may be forced into automation sooner than expected. So, development teams need to gear up and move even faster to make this a reality.

Changing traffic situations and conditions

During the past few months, several stories have shed light on how the environment is benefitting from reduced pollution from less driving and factories not operating at full capacity. The traffic situation and manufacturing conditions have certainly changed significantly.

However, there are also reports that fatal accidents are on the rise in some parts of the country. Will such a situation make automated driving even more of a probable reality and need? With a reduced traffic load, we may certainly be able to manage/reduce many complicated driving scenarios, and thereby, make potential driving automation easier to achieve and on an accelerated timeframe. However, this still has to be proven, and we will need to gather much more data on these new emerging traffic patterns.

The question remains: Will these traffic patterns stay or will we revert back to our old habits? This is anyone’s guess, but there may be an opportunity here for all of us to make a positive impact on the environment. Automation can help by making things efficient.

To analyze these new traffic conditions, we will need even higher amounts of data collection. Luckily, the industry has been working on such needs through innovation. dSPACE, for example, launched the Autera system, which not only collects data at a whopping bandwidth of 40 Gb/s, but also offers large, swappable storage disks of up to 32 TB. The system also provides very powerful edge computing and data processing capabilities with high-end CPUs and GPUs (central and graphical processing units) as well as FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays)—all in a single package.

Enabling remote engineering  

We have all been adapting to the new “work from home” reality. Engineers across the industry—at OEMs, suppliers, and in management—have been commenting on how busy they have been. In general, it seems that all of sudden we could get more done. We all gained more hours in our day by cutting out the commuting time, and more meetings have been held with our colleagues in remote offices and overseas.

However, this rapid change to our work situation required adaptation on the engineering infrastructure front. Across the board, the CAE (computer-aided engineering) community quickly adapted by providing more flexible licensing of products to enable engineers to work.

The pandemic situation has and will continue to be a big disruptor. The software and simulation products that are driving the engineering workload will continue to undergo change. This change has already been happening within the industry but is gaining pace.

Delivery of software and capabilities through the cloud will continue to gain prominence. For example, software-in-the-loop (SIL) test solutions for embedded software, which were already coming into the market for software validation, will now get a further boost. It is anticipated that while in-vehicle testing and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) are still necessary, the SIL test methodology will gain further acceptance and increased volume.

Data reuse

As we collect more data to gain insights for changed traffic conditions, reusing that data throughout the development process will gain importance. Data from real driving conditions is used for both training AI and for validation purposes. However, without proper tagging or labeling of the collected data, a lot of data remains unused. With tools from Intempora, such as RTag and IVS (Intempora Validation Suite), the utilization of existing captured data can be increased.

Furthermore, captured corner cases can be converted into simulated scenarios efficiently through AI-backed toolchains, such as those offered by dSPACE and Understand AI. This will enable data reuse for validation purposes.

In conclusion, the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry will reverberate for a longtime. A silver lining is possible, though, with new opportunities for innovation and the potential to optimize our development and testing strategies. Through innovative engineering and efficiency gains in our work processes and products, we can make a positive impact in this time of crisis.