Automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG, better known as ZF, and computer chip maker NVIDIA revealed a new automated driving assistance system at the Shanghai auto show. Dubbed ZF coPILOT, it is an easily scalable and updatable Level 2+ intelligent Advanced Driver Assistant System (ADAS).
What’s more, it’s a system that will enable automakers who might be behind the curve in automated driving technology development to potentially catch up with their rivals. That is, for a price.
coPILOT is composed of five radar sensors — one facing forward and one on each vehicle corner — and eight cameras. There are two forward-facing cameras, one in the rear, two in each side view mirror, and a final camera that monitors the driver. All of these sensors and cameras feed data they are continually gathering into the ZF ProAI central computer, which features an NVIDIA DRIVE platform Xavier processor.
The result is a system that can autonomously drive a vehicle on and off the highway, proactively change lanes, pass, and merge in addition to functioning as an advanced adaptive cruise control system with active steering and lane-keep assisting. Furthermore, with the camera monitoring the driver, in addition to other sensors and functions, coPILOT can trigger warnings in the event it detects potentially dangerous conditions.
What would constitute unsafe conditions? If the driver looks away from the road for too long or falls asleep, for example, the vehicle could set off warnings. Should the driver not respond, the vehicle could bring itself to a stop in the lane.
“The ZF coPILOT is equipped with artificial intelligence, a 360-degree sensor set, the powerful ZF ProAI central computer and NVIDIAs DRIVE platform, thus offering driving and safety functions that surpass the performance of a regular Level 2 system for semi-automated driving. This enables us to achieve an improved quality in semi-automated driving,” Torsten Gollewski, Head of Autonomous Mobility Solutions at ZF, said in a prepared statement.
On the SAE automated driving level scale that runs from 0 to 5, ZF is marketing coPILOT as a Level 2+ system. That’s because Levels 3 and higher are not legal in all countries. So, positioning coPILOT as a Level 2+ (like that in the newly revealed Geometry A electric sedan) is a clever workaround. As such, ZF sees the coPILOT system as one that works as a co-pilot that is there to support the driver who is ultimately responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation.
Of course, coPILOT is not ZF’s only automated driving system. In fact, it has driver assist systems that span from Levels 0 to 5. Most impressive of ZF’s automated driving products is one called “RoboThink,” which is most powerful AI-enabled supercomputer in the mobility industry. It is so powerful, it is capable of executing 600 trillion operations per second.
The work that ZF is doing to produce automated driving systems that it can supply to automakers and beyond is perhaps a model for what Apple aims to do in the future with its ever-changing Project Titan — the believed codename for the tech giant’s automotive project. Recently, Apple hired away Tesla’s Engineering VP and also received a patent for some self-driving vehicle sensors.
Rather than build its own car, Apple could possibly challenge companies like ZF and NVIDIA who supply automated driving technology to many major automakers.
Although ZF revealed coPILOT this week, it won’t be ready for production until 2021. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple didn’t reveal a system similar to coPILOT by 2021.