May 4, 2018

Collaborative Vision Essential to Automated Driving
Insights on development of the world’s first Level-4 autonomous parking solution

Guest Blog By Anuja Sonalker
Founder and CEO, STEER

Many of the most popular technological developments in today’s global society have evolved from the inspiration of a single individual, company or breakthrough. Steve Jobs’ iPhone, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon all have been seismic innovations that have changed the lives of billions.  Advancement of automotive technology, however, rarely has resulted from the vision of just one person. Nearly universally, the vehicles of today and tomorrow represent a “quilt” of exceptional innovations from collaborators, such as those who most recently have come together to advance self-driving technology.

Over the past century, the collaboration of suppliers and manufacturers has been responsible for most of the innovation in our cars and trucks. Today, automated driving is so complex and nuanced that no one entity can resolve all the challenges it represents and be good at creating every aspect of the self-driving vehicle, so collaboration remains essential.

Collaboration and integration have become art forms in the automotive gallery, with a creative supply chain that has enabled the industry to keep up with consumer demand and preferences. Consumers want vehicles to keep pace with their lifestyles just as much as they want a tablet or an online marketplace to reflect their constantly changing needs and tastes. Automotive companies gain this timeliness through collaboration.

Collaborating on driverless parking
One successful example of such collaboration—and one close to my heart—is the work being carried out by Visteon and STEER, the company that I founded. STEER has created the first level 4 fully autonomous parking technology, which transforms everyday cars into driverless vehicles that self-park in designated lots.  This technology, activated by a mobile-phone app, lets drivers and passengers be dropped off at their destination; then the car takes over from the drop-off point, navigates and drives itself to a parking area where it detects an open available spot, and parks itself. When they’re ready to leave, they summon their car with the same app. It’s a complete solution that works with existing systems in vehicles and is cybersecure.

Creating this technology, however, is very different from finding a way to integrate it into current and future vehicles and ensure that it works as intended, every time. For that task, we collaborated with Visteon. A few years ago, I met Visteon President and CEO Sachin Lawande, and I was immensely impressed with his vision and his extreme focus on efficient execution, especially in relation to Visteon’s DriveCore autonomous driving platform. Visteon had very clear goals and sought out the right team members to pursue them. We were on the same page regarding how to conquer the automated vehicle market.

A success formula on a napkin
In 2016, Sachin and I came up with our formula for integrating STEER and DriveCore™, literally on a paper napkin. DriveCore™ was precisely the right technology for making STEER a practical automotive technology. Its high computational capabilities, robust systems and its ability to support more than 10 sensor channels with Ethernet connectivity are packaged in a very small unit. Moreover, DriveCore™ has enough power to integrate our valet parking system with autopilot technology. These two advancements could be developed independently and then be integrated seamlessly on DriveCore™. This results in a better value proposition for automakers – a bigger solution that is developed more rapidly.

During development, STEER and Visteon together addressed countless edge cases that make automated driving an infinite microcosm of slight differences among driving situations and driver reactions. DriveCore™ has all the features we need to exhaustively prove all the scenarios we must consider now and in the future.

My greatest surprise during this experience was how easy it was to collaborate with Visteon. It’s a large, global company, but one with no bureaucracy to get lost in. Visteon has promptly addressed every need as soon as we’ve identified it.

Our ability to bring STEER to market so quickly speaks to the success of this collaboration. Before long, STEER-equipped vehicles using DriveCore™ technology will roll out in Asia, followed by the U.S. and Europe.

What I have learned from this collaboration process is that, if you run a technology company, first you must focus on getting your niche problem right. Then you need to exceed expectations, and build and test the guts out of it. After that, envision the delivery vehicle for your product to go to market and approach the right partner.

STEER has used this process to transform our expectations into a transformative, practical technology for automated valet parking. We envision more great developments, collaborating with great companies like Visteon. Our next collaborative innovation is just one napkin away.

Anuja Sonalker, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of STEER Tech, and has nearly two decades of experience in the automotive and cybersecurity industries. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, STEER builds products that enable autonomous features in mainstream vehicles, stimulate smart transportation and prevent automotive cyber threats. Dr. Sonalker oversees technology development, navigation of industry landscape and development of go-to-market strategies.

Prior to STEER, Dr. Sonalker was vice president of engineering and operations for TowerSec, an automotive cybersecurity company that was acquired by Harman International in 2016. She was also a project manager within the automotive security group in the cyber innovation unit at Battelle, where she led advanced research in vehicular environments and transition to market strategies.

Dr. Sonalker is currently the vice chair of the SAE Vehicle Cybersecurity Systems Engineering Committee and co-chair of on the ISO International Standard on Cybersecurity Engineering for Road Vehicles.

She holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland College Park, a master of science in computer engineering from North Carolina State University and a bachelor of engineering from the University of Mumbai.

March 29, 2018

SmartCore Hits the Road with a New Approach to Cockpit Displays
By Waheed Ahmed
Software Engineering Manager – SmartCore™ Chief Architect

Beginning this summer, vehicle cockpits around the world will become a lot more interesting. That’s when the first production vehicles from a German automaker will roll off the lot equipped with Visteon’s SmartCore technology.

In conventional automotive cockpits, technologies such as the instrument cluster, center stack, infotainment and telematics each are driven by a separate electronic control unit (ECU). SmartCore combines the functions of multiple ECUs into a single box, or domain controller, which ultimately may serve as the brains for every display function across the instrument panel and into passenger areas.

The SmartCore offerings will integrate the instrument cluster, a head-up display (HUD) and Visteon’s infotainment platform into a single domain controller. Visteon engineers already are working on integrating lighting, heating and air conditioning displays into near-future versions. By the early 2020s, SmartCore could be controlling telematics, advanced driver assistance system displays, augmented reality head-up displays, vehicle mirrors, surround-view cameras, driver monitoring and rear-seat entertainment — all from a single box. 

Integrating control of these functions on a single ECU reduces signal latency, eliminates excessive wiring and saves considerable weight. The hardware can be used more efficiently, eliminating the need to duplicate interfaces for memory, display and video in separate ECU boxes. With new approaches from chip designers, SmartCore can generate more computing power to drive an expanded number of functions.

Visteon has incorporated exceptional security within SmartCore™. Downloaded data needs to be signed and authorized by the car dealer. Hardware security walls are built to prevent suspicious applications from intruding into the secure portion of SmartCore™.

A new reality for autonomous driving 
SmartCore will play an important role in the transition to self-driving vehicles. When future cars are in fully autonomous mode, drivers will be able to take their hands and eyes off the road, shifting their focus to screens along the dash. They can view text, images and video there and interact with the screens, with all this functionality driven seamlessly by a SmartCore domain controller. SmartCore also will integrate input from cameras and other devices monitoring the environment outside the vehicle, so drivers and passengers can receive information about their surroundings.

In the future, augmented reality will be incorporated into the SmartCore-driven displays, presenting avatars of people, objects and virtual creations outside the car to the occupants inside. Imagine how all this integration could change your GPS display in an autonomous vehicle, adding detailed information about your destination, images of nearby attractions, audio and video. Your music player expands from showing an entertainer’s album-cover art to presenting a full-motion music video. Eventually, videoconferencing could be integrated into SmartCore, and passengers could play SmartCore-controlled games.

Additionally, SmartCore could make cars and trucks even more secure by enabling vehicle tracking, remote immobilization, remote assistance and security for shared vehicles.

With the first SmartCore-equipped vehicles about to hit the road, we’re embarking on an exciting new chapter in vehicle cockpit efficiency and integration. Watch this space closely – the story will continue to unfold as we approach the autonomous driving era. 

Waheed Ahmed oversees software architecture development of future domain controllers at Visteon. He is focused on next-generation automotive cockpits and their role in autonomous cars. Ahmed has proven leadership and R&D experience in software systems, spanning more than 15 years. Prior to joining Visteon, he worked in the semiconductor industry as an engineer, architect, and scientist. Ahmed earned his master’s degree in computer science from RWTH Aachen University in Germany. He has published six international peer-reviewed scientific papers, filed six U.S. patent applications and authored a white paper on the fundamentals of domain controllers.

December 4, 2017

Visteon Makes Its Mark at New Proving Ground for Autonomous Driving
An Ideal Setting to Ready Autonomous Cars for Realities of the Road   
By Upton Bowden, new technology management

If the world’s highways, local roads and city centers were all brand new with bright white lanes, sparkling signs, fresh concrete and protected pedestrian overpasses, most of us might be tooling around in autonomous cars and trucks by now.

But the real world has a way of deflating those expectations by populating cities and countrysides with potholes, confusing layers of repositioned lane markers, construction areas, broken-down vehicles, inconsistent entrance and exit ramps, and the occasional stray pedestrian chasing lost cargo.

The variety of situations that may confront an autonomous vehicle seems endless, but the automotive industry is tackling all of them, seeking to build algorithms that can manage any challenge that the vehicle encounters. To achieve this daunting goal, the algorithms and associated equipment must be tested in a realistic, flexible setting that can be monitored and controlled, so real highways and downtowns are not the best places to determine if an engineer’s latest software tweaks really do the job.

Fortunately, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK have joined to create the American Center for Mobility (ACM), a full proving ground for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure testing, validation and education. The remarkable facility is under construction at the Willow Run site near Ypsilanti, Michigan, with its first phase opening on Dec. 11.

500 acres of tunnels, roundabouts and potholes

Visteon is delighted to be the first Tier 1 automotive supplier to become an ACM partner, investing $5 million in this nationally designated proving ground, one of only 10 across the United States. This world-class, non-profit facility is specifically designed for developing, testing and creating standards for autonomous vehicle software and hardware, with roadways that mimic real-life situations and the obstacles they can present.

Stretching across more than 500 acres, ACM preserves a mile-and-a-half portion of M-12, with its potholes and worn lane markings. It adds triple-decker overpasses, bridges and a 2.5-mile, high-speed loop. Workers also are constructing a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections, roundabouts and a complex pedestrian zone. It even will offer an urban canyon, with movable glass and steel walls that generate reflections and potentially block wireless signals.

Computer vision algorithms should not always look at brand-new pavement, so ACM has lines with older faded paint. Indeed, ACM can make lane markings disappear and add construction barrels or put debris on the road along with stalled vehicles.

At ACM, virtually any type of driving environment can be custom-designed for testing by the industry. We can test autonomous driving in a simulated rainstorm, where glare from the road can interfere with sensors. We can turn off the lights in a tunnel to imitate a power failure. We even can create a snowstorm without needing to wait for January in Michigan.

An ideal environment for perfecting DriveCore™ technology

Situated just seven miles from Visteon’s headquarters, ACM will serve as an ongoing base for perfecting Visteon’s DriveCore™ technology, an integrated autonomous driving controller providing a scalable, failsafe platform that Integrates advanced driver assistance systems through levels 3 and 4 of autonomous driving.

Visteon’s first autonomous vehicle will be on site for ACM’s Dec. 11 opening, so our autonomous team can test hardware, software, sensors—the entire setup—while controlling surrounding vehicles to reproduce an amazing variety of traffic situations.

ACM will be a great site for proving edge-use cases for computer vision in autonomous driving—those unusual situations that defy ideal conditions.

We are confident that ACM will help us more quickly validate the performance and safety of systems we are developing. Our proximity will be a huge advantage, as team members no longer will need to drive across the country to find certain test-case environments. Also, as a founding partner, Visteon can book the ACM facility in advance and permanently occupy a garage on the grounds.

We believe that this strategic investment in ACM will accelerate the development of our products and demonstrate our long-term commitment to autonomous driving systems, as well as our ability to move quickly to test edge-use cases.

The American Center for Mobility is an ideal, unique venue for making possible the safe validation and self-certification of connected and autonomous vehicle technology – helping ensure autonomous cars will perform reliably and safely on those unpredictable “real-world” roads and highways.

Upton Bowden oversees new technology management in the Chief Technology Office at Visteon. He is primarily focused on technology and approaches that enable autonomous driving and other next-generation mobility solutions. Bowden earned a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Wayne State University. He holds 14 automotive electronics patents and serves on the board of the Connected Vehicle Trade Association (CTVA).