Demonstrating the future of autonomous cars

Philip Barker
Kettering 52° 23' 55.752" N, -0° 43' 32.988" E

HERE built a simulator to highlight the future for autonomous vehicles, with the company’s expertise helping to build trust in cars that drive themselves. HERE couldn’t have demonstrated the technology without a little help from our friends at Mirai Media Lab though.

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Mirai focuses on creating prototypes for everything from interfaces to hardware and industrial design, helping companies to create hardware platforms that can be used to demonstrate software. We interviewed Sven Bauer from Mirai, which was instrumental in creating the simulator.

“The software side of the project – everything happening onscreen – was designed and programmed by the HERE team,” says Sven, “but we got involved due to our Automotive Prototyping Kit (APK), a modular system we provide to experiment with that can highlight digital content.”

Sven explains that the platform is generally used for demonstrations with head-up displays, and this is ideal for showing off autonomous driving technology as visualised by HERE. Mirai’s modular platform was just the start though, with HERE requesting additions like a unique steering wheel with its own display, a centre screen that’s larger than usual and custom parts that work towards creating a truly unique platform.

“We started the whole project in May 2014 and went through several iterations before the simulator was finished. It took around a year from the very start before the platform was ready to demonstrate. While the base platform was standard, we made several proposals with the custom parts. They were reviewed by a team at HERE, we had one or two loops and that was it, the simulator was built and implemented.”

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HERE created the interfaces and software, but Mirai was still involved with other technical aspects of the build. For instance, there’s a head-up display processor that serves two purposes. It pre-distorts the source image to give a perfectly straight picture when reflected inside the windshield. It also utilizes an additional head tracking unit to dynamically shift the image according to the driver’s perspective. So the content in the HUD "sticks" to the outside world even if the driver shifts his perspective by moving his head.

Sven adds: “It’s software, but unlike the interfaces designed by HERE, it’s in the background, it just does its job and makes images presentable. This was designed and provided by us.”

Just a small group from the design team working on the project, but Mirai worked with suppliers when it came to things like powder coating full-scale metal parts. With HERE also involved on the software side, there were lots of people involved overall.

Mirroring the challenges that automakers face with their actual cars, Sven points out that the biggest challenge with the simulator was actually making it tough enough to withstand regular use outside a laboratory:

“It was tough creating these very special custom parts like the steering wheel and making them function in the way they should, at the same time making it sturdy enough to withstand use. In the lab, you can do pretty much everything; you can work with sensors and motors, you can design crazy surfaces and it works, but sometimes you need to be more careful to ensure it works properly when you hand it over to people at a trade fair.”

With lots of people expected to interact with the simulator, it had to be robust enough to last, but it also had to be intuitive enough for people to use without requiring an introduction. “That was quite a challenge,” adds Sven.

Want to know more about this project? Alex Mangan, Product Marketing Manager at HERE, explains why we created the platform to help build trust in ADAS systems, connected cars and autonomous cars.

Topics: Automotive, Autonomous cars, Autonomous cars simulator, Features, Editor's picks

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