Data, cloud and electric platforms: The bones of A-EVs

EV speaks to Klaus Küng, Senior Director, Transport & Mobility Industry, Dassault Systèmes on the future of autonomous vehicles and electric platforms

Autonomous vehicles, something out of a futuristic movie? Or closer to mainstream adoption than we think? 

Utilising a fully automated driving system to allow the vehicle to respond to external conditions that a human would manage, autonomous vehicles rely on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning (ML) systems, and powerful processors to operate. 

From a quality-of-life standpoint the benefits of autonomous vehicles can bring independence to those unable to drive internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, result in more efficient driving, and reduce road rage. But from an environmental standpoint, autonomous vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. 

According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), if the industry adopts three key trends concurrently — vehicle automation, vehicle electrification, and ridesharing — by 2050 traffic congestion could be reduce by 30%, transport costs could be cut by 40%, and urban CO2 emissions could be reduced by 80%. 

Taking a look under the hood: Electric platforms for self-driving vehicles

When it comes to the inner working of an autonomous vehicle, there are several factors that make an electric platform a suitable foundation. “Let me start with the noise benefits,” says Klaus Küng, Senior Director of Transport & Mobility Industry at Dassault Systèmes

“Electric vehicles are quieter than ICE vehicles, which makes it easier for the vehicle's sensors to detect surrounding objects. This is important for autonomous vehicles, as they rely on sensors to perceive their surroundings and make decisions about how to navigate,” Küng explains. 

Other benefits include a lower centre of gravity making the vehicles more stable and easier to control and a higher torque, both important factors in being able to handle and react to unexpected changes to traffic quickly. 

And the benefits don’t stop there, Küng explains that “there are many more aspects, such as reduced noise and emissions, lower maintenance costs or fully connected systems (electronic and mechanical) making electric platforms offer a number of advantages for autonomous vehicles.”

While the benefits are clear, like most innovations there are always hurdles to overcome. Küng  starts by explaining the need for battery capacity: “to have electricity on board, it needs to have enough powerful battery capacity. And we see a hard battle for materials, supply chain and production capacities, therefore production quality is key.”

However, the main challenge for the development of electric vehicle architecture is the ability to manage, coordinate, and ensure that requirements, regulations and energy management, is optimised in the most efficient way. “The complexity of such is so huge, that only sophisticated design software, such as our 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, is able to handle this difficulty,” says Küng. 

“Additionally, to achieve the maximum from this complex architecture, it is crucial to be able to test and simulate, partially but also in full setup. First fully virtually, then with some components until the full vehicle is complete. This not only maximises the performance,but  also reduces development times and cost, which in the end again is beneficial for the end customer.”

Data and the cloud: The inner workings of an autonomous vehicle

In the words of the mathematician Clive Humby: “Data is the new oil. Like oil, data is valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity.”

And this is true of autonomous vehicles. Without Big Data there would be no autonomous vehicles. Leveraging sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning (ML) systems, and powerful processors to operate, autonomous vehicles collate all of this data processing, on average, 4TB of data a day to complete their function to see and sense; map surroundings; identify range, speed and distance; and communicate with other vehicles. 

“We are witnessing an exponential increase of data generation in the automotive industry, strongly driven by EVs, new software architecture and business models. Based on data feedback-driven prioritisation, additional features are made available through over-the-air (OTA) updates,” explains Küng. 

To achieve this, autonomous vehicle manufacturers will need to dive into the world of cloud technology. “We spoke to an OEM who wants to publish updates through OTA on a daily basis,” says Küng. 

“Analysing data from vehicles in use, developing adjustments, and pushing those back to the cars will decrease the maintenance cost and increase the lifecycle of a car significantly. This is also one of the reasons why eight of the TOP 10 EV makers use our 3DEXPERIENCE Platform on cloud. It gives them the possibility to scale easily based on their growth and related to the above, extend needed new functionalities very easily. This allows them to adapt to new demands and new business models very quickly, upstream and downstream the process.”

Reflecting on the future landscape for the industry, Küng promises an exciting time for EVs and autonomous vehicles: “we will see over the coming years a lot of evolutions and even revolutions, it is going to be an exciting time for the industry.”

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