Autonomous on the Freeway

IAV gets Renault Symbioz Demo car on the road to tomorrow’s mobility – autonomous driving at SAE Level 4

Futuristic design, state-of-the-art entertainment, including virtual reality, and adaptable interior are not the only aspects that set the Renault Symbioz Demo car apart from other cars. It is above all the ability to drive autonomously that makes the test vehicle a true experience. Because benefiting from numerous sensors and intelligent algorithms from IAV, the vehicle can get its passengers to their destination without any human intervention. The Symbioz Demo car is capable of SAE Level 4.

Renault has been using IAV’s experience and expertise to realize its vision of future mobility in 2030 which was showcased at IAA Motor Show 2017 in a concept study. Presentation of the Renault Symbioz Demo car demonstration car on public roads at the end of last year caused a further sensation. “The challenge was to integrate the E/E architecture, the sensors and the autonomous driving functions into the prototype as well as to develop the necessary safety functions and driving features”, says Udo Wehner, Executive Vice President Vehicle Integrated Functions. Production and near-production sensor systems are installed in the vehicle in an innovative way. Various laser sensors, long-range radar, short-range radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors as well as cameras at front and rear and in the door handles provide the necessary information. One key to success was the approach of teaming up with the designers and positioning the sensors already on the clay model. A particular technical focus was placed on redundantly configuring all critical components, such as steering, brakes and computing platforms.

For the first time ever, it was possible over a period of four weeks to present the Renault Symbioz Demo car to more than 100 international journalists in which they themselves were able – without any special training – to sit in the driver’s seat and drive autonomously on French roads. In principle, the vehicle is capable of driving itself on freeways and freeway- like roads – provided the road segment has had clearance and is described by adequate digital map material.

The starting point for the presentation is Château St. Aubin. The Symbioz Demo car is called to the house via a smartphone, with the demonstration car autonomously navigating its way across the castle grounds to the particular journalist. Over the first few kilometers on a country road, the human driver is still in command – then, on reaching the A13 highway, the driver can give the control to the car. It moves autonomously through traffic, adapts its speed, changes lane, provides the driver with information on the route and its autonomous status. As a highlight, the Symbioz Demo car passes through a toll station without manual intervention. “It was a challenge even for us as developers to muster confidence – passing through the toll booth was all the more exciting for the journalists”, Wehner says. While driving along, vehicle occupants can put on a virtual-reality headset and see the vehicle’s surroundings on the basis of the Symbioz’s sensor data.

IAV has been building up experience in the field of autonomous driving for many years – also, for example, in an earlier project on autonomous driving in downtown Paris traffic. Based on this IP, the Symbioz Demo car was qualified to cope with the demanded scenarios all by itself.

New Form of Cooperation

Besides the technical innovations, cooperation with Renault and the partners involved was groundbreaking. The project not only set out to verify the technical feasibilities but also to ask the question of “How are we going to develop complex autonomous systems in future?”. This meant that besides using new management methods and agile processes, the main focus of attention was on working together as partners. In order to work successfully as a team, it was very helpful for the IAV team to get on well both within and outside the work environment and know everyone’s limits and ability to work under pressure.