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Driving simulators at CES

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CES was just 15 minutes from closing when I managed to slip away from the very busy QNX booth to try out an F1 simulator. Three screens, 6 degrees of freedom, and surround sound came together for the most exciting simulated driving experience I have ever had. I was literally shaking when they dragged me out of the driver’s seat (I didn’t want to stop :-). Mind you, at around $80K for the system, it seems unlikely I will ever own one.

The experience got me thinking about the types of vehicles currently in simulation or in the lab that I fully expect to drive in my lifetime: cars that are virtually impossible to crash, cars that make it painless to travel long distances, and, ultimately, cars that worry about traffic jams so I can read a book.

Re-incarnated: The QNX reference
vehicle.
QNX Software Systems had a very popular simulator of its own at CES this year. You may have seen some details on it already but to recap, it is a new incarnation of our trusty QNX reference vehicle, extended to demonstrate ADAS capabilities. We parked it in front of a 12 foot display and used video footage captured on California’s fabled Highway 1 to provide the closest thing to real-world driving we could create.

The resulting virtual drive showcased the capabilities not only of QNX technology, but of our ecosystem as well. Using the video footage, we provided camera inputs to Itseez’ computer vision algorithms to demonstrate a working example of lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. By capturing GPS data synchronized with the video footage, and feeding the result through Elektrobit’s Electronic Horizon Solution, we were able to generate curve speed warnings. All this was running on automotive-grade Jacinto 6 silicon from Texas Instruments. LiDAR technology from Phantom Intelligence rounded out the offering by providing collision feedback to the driver.

The lane departure and curve speed warnings in action. Screen-grab from video by Embedded Computing Design.

Meeting the challenge
While at CES, I also had the opportunity to meet with companies that are working to make advanced ADAS systems commercially viable. Phantom Intelligence is one example but I was also introduced to companies that can provide thermal imaging systems and near-infrared cameras at a fraction of what these technologies cost today.

These are all examples of how the industry is rising up to meet the challenge of safer, more autonomous vehicles at a price point that allows for widespread adoption in the foreseeable future. Amazing stuff, really — we are finally entering the era of the Jetsons.

By the way, I can’t remember what booth I was in when I drove the simulator. But I’m willing to bet that the people who experienced the Jeep at CES will remember they were in the QNX booth, seeing technology from QNX and its key partners in this exciting new world.

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