Overview

virtual driver for autonomous vehicles

PRODRIVER is Embotech’s solution to autonomous navigation, path planning, tracking and control for autonomous or highly-automated vehicles as well as vehicles fleets. It is the core component of the autonomous driving software stack, within the so-called ‘decision making’ layer. PRODRIVER is responsible to generate drivable trajectories or directly actuator commands such as steering, accelerating and braking. These are computed given the surrounding environment information. PRODRIVER does so by continuously making predictions and solving an optimization problem in real time. Its most important inputs are information about the drivable space, obstacles within it and a goal. Its outputs can be used directly to control the vehicle or to provide set-points for the vehicle’s low-level controllers to track. The diagram below gives a schematic overview of how PRODRIVER is integrated within a typical autonomous vehicle software stack.

design philosophy

Our design philosophy is focused on a ground vehicle virtual driver that drives like a human but does not make human-like mistakes. We avoid  learning-based methods or hard-coded rule-based heuristics where either repeatability and determinism cannot be guaranteed and a large amount of training data is required, or where it’s impossible to encode all situations and the trajectories tend to feel “artificial”. We don’t believe in what we call “situational pre-programming”.

The problem of driving is complex, but it can be described by mathematical functions. Such functions are the equations of motions of the vehicle, the tire dynamics and the constraints imposed by physics (e.g. maximum turning radius), regulation (e.g. speed limits) and safety (e.g. obstacles, road conditions). Those are the ingredients required to set up the mathematical optimization problem.

We take up the challenge to solve the problem in real time – within milliseconds.

In our case, the availability of Embotech’s core technology,  the powerful and MISRA-C-compliant FORCESPRO solver, allows us to set up the motion planning challenge as a rich nonlinear optimization problem that can be executed reliability in automotive-grade embedded hardware.

The advantage is that the trajectories generated by PRODRIVER are smooth, human-like, consistent, and able to deal with scenarios never encountered before. By modifying a few parameters, different driving styles automatically emerge. For example, if in the cost function of the optimization problem we try to minimize lateral accelerations, we observe a driving style similar to the one of a careful chauffeur. On the other hand, if the aim is to minimize time, the result is a more race-like style.

Most importantly, our trajectories are physically consistent and correct: they can be followed by the vehicle. This also allows us to deal with driving on low-friction surfaces like mud, gravel, snow, ice, and to create emergency avoidance maneuvers at the limits of handling within the same piece of software.

PRODRIVER Vehicle Applications

As human beings require different level of knowledge and experience to drive different vehicles, so does PRODRIVER. The physics-based approach we use to solve the motion planning problem requires mathematical models of the vehicle being driven, as well as tuning. In addition to this, PRODRIVER can drive and coordinate multiple vehicles, and will be available in different levels of certification depending on where it is used. We aim to achieve ASIL B for gated areas in Q4 2022 and ASIL D for public roads in Q4 2024. Below is a description of the PRODRIVER vehicle applications

PUBLIC ROADS

PRODRIVER for passenger vehicles is an SAE Level 4. It requires the highest level of certification.
PRODRIVERfor trucks (with or without trailers) is an SAE Level 4 autopilot specialized for freight transport. Apart from the high level of certification also required here, heavy vehicle with semi-trailers can be driven.

PRODRIVERfor pods or people carrier is tuned for applications in more controlled areas, often driving in designated lanes.

GATED AREAS

PRODRIVER for trucks for logistic yards of driving and coordinating multiple vehicles. It can be deployed in a cloud computer and used by logistic centers for yard automation.
PRODRIVER for Special vehicles has more open characteristics. It can be tuned to drive unconventional vehicles from 400 ton haul trucks to articulated and multiple-axle vehicles.
PRODRIVERfor vehicle testing automates vehicle dynamic testing where repeatability combined with human-like performance is essential. It’s a software substitute of driving robots that are currently used to perform such tests.
PRODRIVER for off-road vehicles is designed to drive off-the-highway vehicles in un-smooth surfaces, often encountered in mining and constructions sites. This variant is specifically tuned to deal with low and frequently changing tire friction coefficients.

legacy

Our existing customers will be familiar with the products PROPARKER, our low-speed maneuvering motion planner and PROCRUISER, our highway-driving motion planner. These two products separately solved the problem of driving in structured and unstructured spaces, at high speeds and at low speeds. When it became clear that a single motion planner was what our customers needed, we developed PRODRIVER and phased out PROPARKER and PROCRUISER. If you are an existing customer still using the legacy products, we will continue supporting and helping you transitioning to PRODRIVER. Needless to say, PRODRIVER can do what its parent products could do and much more.

Looking for more information?

 

If you’d like to find out more about PRODRIVER, let us know. Either use the webform on the right or book a meeting via the link below. Our team of experts will be happy to discuss more details with you.