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You’ve got to compute to commute, says Intel

Intel discusses its part in the ADAS rollout with Rachel Boagey

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are the basis for not only intelligent driving but automated driving. The application of ADAS in cars can significantly reduce the severity of injuries, as well as preventing many crashes altogether. With nearly three-quarters of 2014 vehicles offering blind-spot detection and half offering lane-departure warning as options, it is clear that driver assistance technologies are cascading across vehicle lines and becoming more mainstream, and will only continue to do so going forward.

Sam La Magna, Intel
Sam La Magna

There is no denying that it will take considerable computer muscle to power next-generation ADAS technology, meaning that bringing ADAS into the automotive industry is not easy. In fact, around 1Gbps of data will need to be processed in the vehicle’s real-time operating system, and that data will need to be analysed fast enough to allow the car to react to changes in less than a second.

At Intel, the Transportation Solutions Division is looking specifically at how technology and automotive expertise can come together to create the car of the future. Sam La Magna, Director of Advanced Driving Technologies at Intel, told Megatrends about the next generation of ADAS capabilities, and what role the company can play as this technology unfolds.

Innovation and investment

La Magna describes the car as “one of the most significant, interesting computing devices that can be connected to the rest of the world,” and believes the majority of the innovation that will happen in the car over the next five to ten years will take place in its software and the electronics. “Of course, there will still be improvements in the car’s mechanics, its aesthetics, and its overall reliability and efficiency,” he conceded, but one of the main areas at which R&D spending is being targeted is connectivity, and in particular ADAS and safety. “The car is really becoming as much compute as it is commute, and the automotive industry will be making continual investments in the IT and consumer electronics world.”

And that’s where Intel comes in. “There is an enormous amount of computer technology well beyond Intel’s microprocessors, including elements of security, connectivity, and manageability. When we look at the car, we don’t look at the microprocessor,” noted La Magna, “we look at the platform and everything from how we can capture data and how we can crunch that data, to how we can use it to get to meaningful actionable data points that will help us make the car situationally aware, as well as driving it to an elevated state of safety or usability.”

Collaboration with companies outside of the automotive sphere is described by La Magna as an essential part of developing the connected car, which could accelerate the traditionally slow lifecycle of the connected car. “The auto industry has seen the computer industry historically move very, very quickly. There are refresh cycles that are on the cadence of 18 months, and new technologies that emerge every single day, and that’s not traditionally how the automotive industry works,” he explained. “But consumers are beginning to develop an insatiable appetite for technology in the vehicle, meaning that the industry needs to partner up with other industries to deal with these demands and challenges.”

But it is not just a one way street, and La Magna notes that at the same time, the IT industry is looking at and can learn from automotive, “noting a heightened level of safety, a heightened level of reliability, as well as a heightened level of longevity of products.”

In it to win it?

The accepted thinking in the automotive industry is that the most innovative OEMs will prevail in the connected car race; in any industry there are innovators, fast followers, and laggers.

Interestingly, La Magna believes that in some ways, being a ‘lagger’ is no bad thing when it comes to connected car innovation. The innovators have no rules to follow. “Some OEMs are willing to put themselves out there, and lead the industry in setting standards, or expanding existing standards, and then other companies come in behind them and snap to them.”

ADAS could resolve some of the difficulties faced by multiple parties, such as older and new drivers. For the former, ADAS could extend safe mobility as a driver, and the latter could benefit through driver distraction aids. In fact, La Magna explained that “the two largest demographics of drivers on the road are brand new drivers and senior drivers, and ADAS is helping OEMs to target these age categories by offering them the benefits they want from a car.”

Moore’s Law

Moores Law Original Graph
Original sketch (1965) of Moore’s Law by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel

One of the most important areas La Magna believes the automotive industry needs to focus on is what is happening inside the cabin. “The state of the driver and his alertness needs to be focussed on just as much as what’s happening outside the car,” he explained. With that in mind, La Magna suggested that Intel can help OEMs implement next-generation ADAS, “which enables the vehicle to become 360 degree situationally aware.”

Intel therefore provides OEMs with the option to use an array of different sensors, bringing cameras, lidar, radar, and ultrasound into the car. These systems can be integrated from high-end cars all the way through to the lower-end: “We can do that all in a very small footprint, power-optimised, safe way, mainly because of just Moore’s Law. What would have taken a trunkful of servers just two years ago, you can now put in a small box that fits under the driver or passenger seat, which happens to be the safest place in the vehicle.” Moore’s Law is a term first coined by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, regarding the development of integrated circuits, which he described as being at the heart of the modern computer’s ever-improving price performance.

Autonomy is reality, but standards are needed

Far from becoming a reality, self-driving cars are already here, says La Magna. “They may be vehicles on private tracks, but they are here.” He described his experience of sitting in an autonomous car as “a thrill for two minutes, but then I was bored. And I realised, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s not thrilling, because it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing in a very safe way.”

La Magna also explained the need for OEMs to work as a collective for the autonomous car. “I think the industry needs to adopt some standards and work as a group of interested parties to move the technology forward at a rapid rate. They need to come together with the IT industry to help democratise these ADAS capabilities and the delivery of autonomous vehicles. Because that, coupled with an intelligent transportation system, will help ensure that we continue to move people, goods and services safely, economically, and efficiently.”

With the development of next-generation ADAS, the automotive industry is entering an era in which cars will become much safer and more efficient as they grow increasingly aware of and react to their surroundings. “So while you shouldn’t take your hands off the wheel just yet,” concluded La Magna, “you can certainly see what the future holds.”

Rachel Boagey

This article appeared in the Q1 2015 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue.

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