Tag Archives: self-driving cars

Video: Audi’s self-driving car hits the race track

Audi will be debuting its RS 7 Piloted Driving Concept under what may arguably be one of the most challenging conditions possible. In its effort to bring self-driving vehicles to the streets, the car manufacturer is hitting the race track to see just how its unmanned vehicles stack up against human drivers.

The driverless car will lap the Hockenheim track on October 17th and 19th at racing speeds ranging from 149 to 189.5 miles per hour. With 560PS (552hp), the Piloted Driving Concept is not your average autonomous car. According to the car manufacturer, the prototype is quite similar to the production model with the exception of its electromechanical power steering, brakes, throttle valve and eight-speed Tiptronic transmission being controlled automatically.

“We’re going into the curves, the cornering, just like a professional race driver. So for example, we have lateral accelerations of more than 1g,” Audi says in its promo video.


How will the vehicle stay on the track? The technology platform is equipped with specially-corrected GPS signals for orientation — these differential GPS data are accurate down to a centimeter and transmitted to the vehicle via WLAN. In addition, 3D camera images are compared in real-time against graphical information stored onboard. The system searches in each of the countless individual images for several hundred known features, such as building patterns behind the track, which it then uses as additional positioning information.

“The car is really able to cope with situations it was not directly taught. It handles unexpected things very well,” an Audi rep explained.

As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, forecasts are calling for 94.7 million vehicles equipped with self-driving capabilities to be sold annually around the world by 2035. Moreover, Gartner believes autonomous vehicles are set to disrupt the business dynamics of at least one-third of the industries in the developed world. From Mercedes and GM to Tesla and Google, a number of companies are already in the process of developing autonomous vehicles that will do everything from park themselves to take over the driver’s seat in traffic.


Talking cars can lead to safer, less congested roads

25 years from now, we can expect to see roads filled with millions of self-driving vehicles, as automakers and legislators aim to cut back on congestion and accidents. This week, the Department of Transportation announced the arrival of a report regarding the future of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology.


As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, V2V technology is exactly what it sounds like: Cars will soon “talk and listen” to one another — automatically. They will share information like proximity, speed, direction, road conditions, as well as countless others things yet to be imagined. The chief driver of V2V is signaling impending collisions so that the cars can automatically take countermeasures. That, of course, means the V2V network will become a critical technology for self- and assisted-driving cars. According to its latest report, the DOT hopes that by the end of the decade, law will require all new vehicles to be hooked up to this so-called roadway network.

“By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety. V2V technology is ready to move toward implementation,” explained NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman.

According to the New York Times, V2V can be installed to any appropriate car for nearly $350. This relatively inexpensive technology could save upwards of 1,000 lives a year and prevent over 500,000 accidents, the NHTSA reveals.

“Safety is our top priority, and V2V technology represents the next great advance in saving lives. This technology could move us from helping people survive crashes to helping them avoid crashes altogether – saving lives, saving money and even saving fuel thanks to the widespread benefits it offers,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx affirms.


A research team at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has begun testing V2V communications on a wider scale. The group has signed up over 3,000 volunteers to implement the tech into the real world and use it on a daily basis. Auto manufacturers have also joined in by offering up a series of test cars for the research team to use.

GM’s Dan Flores tells the New York Times, “We think there’s a fundamental benefit where people can be safer if they have this technology. We believe, longer term, it will be part of the suite of technologies that will bring about a true driverless car.”

Gary Silberg, who forecasts future trends in the auto industry for consulting firm KPMG, estimates close to half of all new vehicles sold in 2039 will offer the option of being entirely autonomous. Navigant Research forecasts 94.7 million vehicles with self-driving capabilities will be sold annually around the world by 2035. With self-driving cars hitting some roadways in 2015, it comes with little surprise that this technology is on the cusp of becoming fully adopted.


Google, which many credit with sparking America’s fascination of driverless cars, recently showed a next-generation car with no steering wheel, just a panic button for emergency stops. “The technology has evolved. The sensors, actuators and so on are already there. It is really about integration. We are along the path to get there and I foresee that day coming,” Johann Jungwirth, President of Mercedes-Benz R&D North America, explained.

Still, with safety being of paramount importance, it is clear we will see this technology develop in the near future to become the norm. “The country is well on its way to deploying this life-saving technology. We need to preserve the space on the spectrum that these safety systems rely on to operate. There is no better use of this spectrum than to save lives,” explained John Bozzella, President and CEO of Global Automakers.


And for those who can do without traffic, in 25 years, congestion will only get worse. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts the American population to exceed 400 million people — meaning more drivers on the nation’s highways. Navigant Research estimates another 10 million vehicles will be in use by 2035, bringing the total number on American roads to more than a quarter billion. Subsequently, vehicles equipped with V2V technology could also enable the development of a wide range of mobility and environmental benefits based on vehicle-to-infrastructure applications and other V2V applications that can enhance traffic flow in many ways.

So in a few years, if a car zooms past you on the freeway with no apparent driver, don’t be concerned… you’re likely safer for it!

As cars continue to get smarter, they’re becoming more electrical and autonomous. Interested in learning more about Atmel’s automotive portfolio? Check out our automotive-qualified category breakdown below:

The future of embedded automotive technology

Rob Valiton, senior VP and general manager, Automotive, Aerospace and Memory Business Units, Atmel Corporation, recently participated in an EE Catalog panel discussion about the future of embedded automotive technology.

According to Valiton, there is a wide variety of of technology that will continue to find its way into in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems – with capacitive touchscreens projected to be one of the fastest-growing spaces.

“The current dominant touchscreen technology in automotive is resistive. However, resistive technology does not allow consumers to interact with their car the way they interact with their smartphone, tablet and Ultrabook. The superior user interface, including common gesture recognition utilizing pinch/zoom and swiping motions is enabled by the adoption of capacitive technology,” he explained.

“Some newer features such as hover and proximity may also have the potential to create a less-distracted user environment than what exists today. Hover and proximity can be used in combination to ensure that the drivers’ eyes stay on the road for as long as possible and changing basic setting does not require several menu changes.”

In addition, Valiton noted that there are a number of standards which should be (further) unified to accelerate the IVI experience between on-board systems and connectable consumer products, with standards ranging from security and software considerations, to technology such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

“Standards identified by technology standards bodies, such as the Bluetooth SIG or Wi-Fi Alliance, are required in order to unify the IVI experience on-board, specifically in relation to consumer products. These are required to ensure a smooth and seamless connection, as well as a positive experience for the end user,” he said.

“Firmware specifications are identified within a car to ensure connectivity is established flawlessly. [Plus], continued development of standards such as those being developed by the Connected Car Consortium will ensure that drivers can continue to control their devices using existing in-vehicle equipment. Of course, software considerations are also important. Since the infotainment lifecycle of an automobile is typically much longer than in the home, future cars must consider software standards along with the ability to upgrade.”

Valiton also pointed out that there are a number of technologies required to connect a car to the roadway and municipal infrastructure, along with vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

“[Such technology] requires a microcontroller (MCU), numerous sensors, a connectivity solution which can range from Wi-Fi such as 802.11p, GPS and 3G or 4G networks and security. The combination allows cars to connect to roadway and municipal infrastructures such as Fastrak, toll payment or Onstar security systems—all of which are connected to terrestrial and/or wireless connectivity,” he said.

“Clearly, security in automobiles is very important. Remember, we are all used to having virus protection readily available on our PCs, but are unlikely to think that much about how secure our software is in the modern automobile. Until now, the software has been part of a closed system and not subject to hacking. With the new V2V and V2X systems, we will need technology to ensure secure firmware updates and prevent hackers from communicating with unsuspecting drivers and their vehicles.”

Last, but certainly not least, Valiton commented on the future of self-driving cars, citing a recent ORC International survey that claimed only 18 percent of consumers would consider buying a self-driving car.

“Despite this survey, we believe consumers do not have a full understanding of self-driving cars. There are a number of technologies today that are baby steps towards a self-driving car (think automatic braking),” he explained. “One example is the safe park, where the vehicle parks itself. Another example is autopilot, a system used to guide a vehicle without assistance from a person, developed in 1912. Autopilots are used in aircraft, boats (known as self-steering gear), spacecraft, missiles and other vehicles.”

Similarly, an aircraft autopilot still requires human intervention—a pilot and a co-pilot—to ensure that if anything is amiss, they can be sure to steer the plane to safety.

“With self-driving cars, drivers will have the option to set the car in drive and not worry about a long trip or traffic. Similar to cruise control, the self-driving car can be turned off or if there is an emergency, the driver can still have full control of the car,” he added.

The car-to-x system warns of road works, congestion, obstacles and dangerous weather (courtesy Daimler).

“However, with strict automotive standards currently in place, to make this idea a reality, hardware and software must work closely together to achieve a safe and reliable self-driving car and one that is not hackable. Embedded technologies such as microcontrollers, sensors and touch solutions, encryption and even technologies such as 3D scanning are already in place to enable an autonomous vehicle. We are ready for self-driving cars; the real question is whether both manufacturers and drivers are ready to embrace it.”

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s comprehensive automotive lineup? You can check out our full automotive portfolio here.