Volkswagen Group of America and four major suppliers have formed an alliance to work on highly technical issues that will have to be resolved to make autonomous vehicles a reality.
The group, calling itself the Networking for Autonomous Vehicles Alliance, will dive into a number of unglamorous tasks such as improving the composition of electrical wiring to enable vehicles to transmit larger volumes of data.
The supplier members are the Silicon Valley companies Aquantia Corp. and Nvidia; and two Germany parts giants, Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental A.G.
The alliance hopes to attract other auto makers and suppliers to the effort.
The global auto industry already is well into the work of developing autonomous vehicles, and early stages of the technology have made their way into dealer showrooms.
But there is a growing concern that there is no standard path for the technology, and that auto makers will face enormous costs in producing technical solutions in isolation from other auto makers.
A critical piece of the puzzle will be moving vast waves of electrical data through various vehicle systems, such as radar sensors, brakes and steering, to enable split-second safety decisions.
"The in-vehicle network for autonomous driving requires a level of high-bandwidth functionality that was previously the domain of the most demanding data center applications," said Amir Bar-Niv, Aquantia vice president of marketing for strategic markets.
"The creation of the NAV Alliance and the focus on Multi-Gig Ethernet will help drive strong industry standards," he said.
Aquantia provides ultra-high-speed connectivity for autonomous vehicle systems, enabling in-car automotive networks to ship much more data, much faster, over copper cables, which in turn allows auto makers to use less copper cable per vehicle. This is important because autonomous vehicles rely on sensors such as extremely high-resolution cameras and lidar.
Areas of attack
The group identified five specific objectives in their initial mission:
- Building consensus among manufacturers on the specs for new technologies related to the multi-gigabyte networking required for autonomous vehicles;
- Creating common procedures and testing requirements for vehicle computers and sensors when it comes to security and reliability;
- Promoting products and solutions that meet the new specifications;
- Promoting industry standardization with the global standards body, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; and
- Better educating the marketplace about the requirements for autonomous vehicle networks.
The NAV Alliance "paves the way for the next generation of in-vehicle high speed data networking," said Kurt Lehmann, Continental chief technical officer.
"In-vehicle high speed data communication is the key for faster introduction of new vehicle system architectures as enabler for future vehicle solutions."
Bosch, another alliance member, already is working with Nvidia to provide an onboard computer for autonomous vehicles that employs artificial intelligence, with an Nvidia graphics processing unit.
"Making fully automated driving and the vision of an accident-free future reality depends to a crucial extent on seamless in-vehicle communication," Viktor Molnar, senior vice president of Bosch's Body Electronics, said in a written statement.
"Together with our alliance partners, we are therefore contributing to the creation of a standardized network that is safe, reliable and redundant, and helping bring autonomous driving to our roads," he said.
Matthias Erb, chief engineering officer for Volkswagen Group of America, said that collaborating with other alliance members to advance the safety and ease of use will help bring autonomous vehicles to market faster.