Making Self-driving Vehicles a Reality

Ashleigh Chatel

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dataspeed’s software kit provides testing platform

It seems as if we hear the terms “autonomous driving” and “mobility” daily, as the way people get around continues to evolve. While fully automated vehicles are many years out, numerous technological advancements continue to be made in vehicles to make them safer and lifestyle friendly. With different levels of autonomy, various challenges face the automotive and technology industries, as well as government regulators.

It is estimated that by 2035, there will be approximately 21 million autonomous vehicle sales globally. To solve the problem of making cars drive themselves, companies must start with testing. This is where Rochester Hills-based engineering company Dataspeed Inc. is playing an important role. Dataspeed’s team of engineers developed an autonomous vehicle hardware and software “kit” that is being used in Michigan, and across the world, as a testing platform.

“The race is on to develop driverless car technology, we are fortunate to be located in the heart of the automotive industry” said Paul Fleck, Dataspeed founder, CEO and president. “Our technology helps many Michigan-based companies develop their own solutions in this area, without innovation, Michigan may lose its edge in autonomous driving, especially to the many companies located in California."

Starting out as a client of the Macomb-OU Incubator within the Velocity Collaboration Center, Dataspeed has utilized a number of services offered by its local SmartZone - from the customer and product discovery stage to securing funding from sources like the Business Accelerator Fund. This has helped propel Dataspeed with new product development for early stage prototypes within product lines of multi-sensor fusion controllers, smart power amplifiers, power distribution systems, IMU/GPS navigation units, and operator control unit displays.

“Michigan has always been a leader in the automotive industry, and supporting entrepreneurs and innovators is crucial to the state’s continued transformation into the global center for mobility,” said Fred Molnar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “Dataspeed is a great example of how entrepreneurs can utilize the resources available within Michigan’s vast entrepreneurial ecosystem to reach their objectives.”

Today, Dataspeed works with a number of customers within the automotive and defense industries to make self-driving vehicles a reality. These vehicles require complex software that enable it to be completely driverless. Dataspeed has worked with many Tier 1 suppliers to help develop the algorithms needed. One example is an algorithm required to enable the car to drive using LIDAR. As seen in this video, the Lincoln MKZ uses 3D LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), which uses localization sensing to drive the vehicle on a recorded path. For example, the LIDAR technology featured in the video shows how the vehicle “sees” it environment so that it can operate safely within it.

Although the company isn’t building autonomous vehicles for consumer use they have enough technology developed that they could create one. Starting with the ability to by-wire control a vehicle, then add in custom software and sensing systems and you have the makings for a driverless car. 

“We will eventually utilize what we learn helping our customers achieve autonomy and apply it to a specialty application like a small personnel transporter,” add Fleck. “Until then, we will continue to play our part supporting the driverless car ecosystem.” 

By 2017, Michigan will be home to two permanent and purpose-built vehicle-testing sites, Mcity and the American Center for Mobility, which recently broke ground in Ypsilanti. The state’s continued commitment to and investment in the auto industry will allow the state to remain at the forefront of research, development and deployment for mobility.

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