Metamoto, a Silicon Valley startup that recently raised $2 million in its Series-A funding, announced that it is collaborating with leading automotive players to launch an early engagement program. This program will help the company learn via an “accelerated feedback loop to enable iteration” before the launch of the company’s highly-anticipated ‘Simulation as a Service’ offering.
In simpler terms, the program is aimed at gathering data and feedback from multiple parties playing in the autonomous driving arena, for training, testing, debugging and validating workflows of systems that are used in self-driving vehicles, but within the confines and safety of virtual computer simulation. The company adds that the participants that form the testing group were chosen to ensure that perspectives are represented from across the transportation industry including OEMs, Tier-1 suppliers, transportation network companies (TNCs) and stack, sensor and other technology providers.
With the advent of cars that can partially drive themselves by leveraging a wide range of radars and stereo cameras fitted onboard, the next logical step would be to achieve complete autonomy. Developing such systems requires extensive research on the software front, coupled with exhaustive testing by putting these systems through their paces in real-life scenarios to gather substantial data and drive software refinements. However, with real-life testing come real-life hazards. Until these systems achieve perfection, there remain concerns regarding the safety of these tests. The death of a pedestrian in a fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber vehicle and the recent Tesla vehicle crash are examples of what could go wrong in testing, or when more faith is put in these systems than they can currently deliver.
Project Road Runner, a Microsoft Garage project, aims to use simulation to be able to mitigate the risks involved in real-world testing. It does so by conducting controlled computer simulation tests that can be scaled in order to simulate various possibilities that are otherwise time-consuming in the real-word. Metamoto is another such company that intends to offer software simulation solutions for autonomous vehicles. Using the virtual environment ensures that no fatalities occur and that the system can learn from repeated tests and mistakes at magnitudes that are impossible in the real world.
Chad Partridge, CEO of Metamoto, added:
The program is more than a business development methodology. It provides us with the necessary tools to continuously test our vision and be held accountable for our innovation. Simulation allows our customers to amass the billions of miles of virtual testing needed for validation in a single cycle, outpacing physical testing by an order of magnitude. While government and local regulations about testing autonomous vehicles on public roads are in a state of flux, simulation offers an immediate means to test the performance of autonomous systems in a risk-free environment
The company suggests that the simulation products can scale and deliver precise simulation of a variety of sensors including LiDAR, camera, radar, GPS, IMU, and others. The simulations run a variety of tests, mirroring unique cases and learning from all captured data to “identify isolated outcomes, performance boundaries, and system tolerances”.
As for how long it will be before a truly autonomous driving vehicle is mass-produced is unknown, but the technology that will enable such a system seems to be catching up.