We caught up with Jeff Warra, Director of Autonomous Solutions at Intrepid Control Systems, to answer some of the big questions surrounding autonomy and his thoughts on the future of the automotive industry. With over 20 years of experience in engineering across Tier 1, OEM and HIL simulation manufacturers, Jeff is a specialist in advanced technologies like V2X (Vehicle to everything), TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) Ethernet, Industrial Vision, GNSS, and Cybersecurity.
How do you see vehicles changing in the next 5-10 years, and what are the main drivers behind that?
The world is ever-changing, and so too is the automotive industry, the need to reduce traffic incidents and fatalities is at the forefront of OEM design concepts. As more platforms become hybridized with electric motors, the need for development tools will increase with OEMs looking to troubleshoot more complex system architectures. The rise of automotive ethernet for the backbone of vehicle architectures is fast approaching with multiple platforms now in production. The current pandemic has further highlighted the need to fully automate manual systems in an effort to support autonomous applications within autonomous vehicles, with smart production plants using Industry 4.0 along with other sectors like: Agriculture, Food, Medical and Rescue.
Also, the world is researching options for removing humans from In-The-Loop applications and instead moving towards AI loop implementation. For autonomous systems, the idea of just moving people from one place to another was always considered a "nice to have'' and not a necessity, however the pandemic has challenged this with the need for driverless shuttles and taxis which have taken on a whole new meaning and goes with the theme taking the driver out of the loop. New requirements will start to emerge that will bridge two or three engineering disciplines; Electrical, Mechanical, and Biotech together to properly and automatically disperse and disinfect the occupant compartment of a ride-hailing service along with the need to support and monitor occupants health, including the recent need to monitor occupants temperature or even possibly administer anti-body testing.
What are the biggest risks and opportunities with these changes?
As with any development, companies will need to manage the risks and take advantage of the opportunities that will drive the business into a direction of profit and the hope of designing something that will also benefit and make a positive impact on society.
As more and more systems become autonomous there is a risk margin associated with the consumer trusting the autonomous systems, these risk factors have to be developed, managed and accepted by the consumers. We are inching forward in developing better systems but the fact remains we need more ways of sensing the world around us, the simple elements of sensing that we use today - Camera, Lidar, Radar - are not ideal for all situations. For example, bending or physical building obstacles in the roadways, along with snowy fog and poor light conditions, are all challenges right now. The need for existing systems to have the driver take back control is still a very tricky situation and negatively affecting the perception of the technology to the consumer. Currently, the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) has indicated that 58% of Americans feel autonomous driving is still a decade away, but realistically if you look at past platform development, it typically takes seven years to develop a technology, according to OEM platform experts.
What is Intrepid Control Systems’ role in supporting these changes? How are you answering some of the risks or problems the industry will face?
Intrepid Control Systems is developing test equipment and systems that will help the industry study and analyze data for developing better designs and algorithms to address the changing challenges of the industry. Today we are developing a sensor motherboard that will bridge the gap of graphical processing and critical timing measurement, along with removing the bottlenecks of high-speed data transfer from sensor element to the storage array.
How does MIRA Technology Park support what you do?
MIRA Technology Park helps us engage with other experts within the field and provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with the other companies based on the park. The ongoing investment and development of CAV test facilities onsite makes it a unique environment. Recently, a key aspect for us has been working with the MIRA Technology Institute to set up multiple training sessions to help address the challenge of autonomous driving. Having a place to display our advanced technology and provide professional development courses at MIRA is second to none.
And finally, what is the one key piece of advice you'd like to share?
As the automotive industry evolves and autonomous vehicle technology expands, the world needs to learn a lesson from the early patent holders of electric motor propulsion, that lesson is one rooted in a business fundamental, "competition breeds business". By releasing your patents it levels the playing field and helps reduce costs, that’s why more OEMs need to work together to collectively take on the challenges and split up the work tasks in an effort not to overlap and then share the fundamental research back to the collective. This, in my personal opinion, is the only approach that will help us accelerate and rise to the future of Level 5 autonomy. “Ubi concordia, ibi victoria”, where there is unity, there is victory.