Image: fRpro - Shanghai simulation model

UK-based rFpro has launched a software platform said to be the first commercially-available simulation for ‘training’ and developing autonomous vehicles. This has already been adopted by two major automakers who are carrying out over two million virtual miles of testing per month, and it is said to significantly reduce costs and development time as well as offering safety benefits.

“Debate is rising about whether these [autonomous] vehicles should be allowed on our roads; if not, how do we develop them? Our platform enables vehicle manufacturers to thoroughly test their technology and be absolutely confident in their systems before validation on real roads,” says rFpro technical director Chris Hoyle in a statement.

“The vehicle hardware, such as the cameras and sensors, are already approaching the level required to achieve a fully autonomous world," he adds, "but it is the ‘brain’, the vehicle’s ability to make appropriate decisions, that needs to be further developed.”

rFpro, established to provide simulations for a Formula One team, supplies driving simulation software and 3D content for deep learning, autonomous driving, advanced drive assistance systems and vehicle dynamics testing and validation. It has a ‘library’ of real roads which have been digitally scanned: these form the basis of the simulation, upon which users can test scenarios such as weather, traffic and the presence of other road users, and include a variety of public roads in North America, Asia and Europe.

“Humans can also be introduced into the simulation, controlling surrounding cars or pedestrians, so we can assess an autonomous vehicle’s decision making and also the interaction between the vehicle and the driver, but most importantly, it is carried out in a safe environment,” says Hoyle.

The fRpro platform is also being used by an autonomous motorsport series and three autonomous car developers.

-Farah Alkhalisi