TIER IV, an open source autonomous driving startup, announced that it has launched commercial autonomous driving software platforms “Pilot.Auto” and “Web.Auto”, which offer a range of support from development to operation of customers’ autonomous driving systems. These platforms can be used in multiple operational design domains (ODD) including closed spaces with restricted traffic and pedestrian-vehicle mixed traffic in urban areas.
Pilot.Auto is an autonomous driving software platform based on “Autoware*1”, an open-source software (OSS) for autonomous driving whose development is led by TIER IV. Pilot.Auto enables partners to achieve their own autonomous driving goals in accordance with TIER IV’s proprietary reference design specifications.
Web.Auto, on the other hand, is a development and operation (DevOps*2) software platform for expanding and improving Pilot.Auto in order to meet individual requirements specified by partners’ systems.
These platforms enable partners to significantly reduce development costs of their desired autonomous driving system and shorten time to market.
Features of Pilot.Auto and Web.Auto
Pilot.Auto makes it possible for partners to achieve their own autonomous driving use cases based on their desired computers, sensors and vehicles. Moreover, since many of Pilot.Auto’s software components including source code are released to the public as open source, partners can continue to develop and accumulate know-how on their own.
Pilot.Auto provides the following services to help partners’ autonomous driving implementation in their respective communities.
- Customization of software: Offers customization including new requirements for individual use cases and advanced functions to be developed and evaluated within a short time.
- Integration of software with the target vehicle systems (vehicle construction): Supports building autonomous driving systems with fine-tuning of sensors, using tools provided by Pilot.Auto and Web.Auto.
- Adaptation of software to the target driving environments: Offers selection, verification and validation to ensure safe and comfortable driving in accordance with specific use cases and ODD. Also conducts risk assessment, high-precision 3D mapping, and tuning to suit the driving environment.
- Maintenance for the customized, integrated, and adapted software: Provides regular inspection of entire autonomous driving systems and over-the-air (OTA) software updates.
Pilot.Auto currently provides five variants of the reference design. Each reference design defines the functions and performance requirements that are essential for specific use cases and ODD, and Pilot.Auto is equipped with the basic software and hardware designs to meet those requirements. The reference designs provided by TIER IV play the role of a “starting point”, so to speak, for the development of autonomous driving systems for our partners, and can significantly reduce the cost and lead time required for the development and operation of autonomous vehicles.
- Cargo Transport: Use case designed for low-speed autonomous transport in enclosed and confined spaces, such as factories.
- Shuttle Bus: Use case designed for passenger transport (bus) in confined and mixed spaces, such as parks and streets.
- Robo-Taxi: Use case designed for passenger transport (taxi) in urban and other areas as part of transportation improvement plans.
- Personal Car: Use case designed for advanced driver assistance systems in spaces dedicated to autonomous driving, such as on highways.
- Delivery Robot: Use case designed for last-mile delivery in a mixed space such as a residential road.
Web.Auto is a cloud-native, edge-intensive DevOps software platform that is essential for the development and safe operation of autonomous driving systems. Web.Auto is configured with development platform tools, (e.g., autonomous driving simulators, CI/CD*3 data pipeline), which are required to develop autonomous driving systems efficiently and effectively, as well as operation platform tools (e.g., fleet management system (FMS) and remote monitoring system that can be integrated with applications provided by a third party), which are required for safe operation and maintenance of vehicles equipped with autonomous driving systems.
The main functions are as follows.
Autonomous driving simulation
- Driving and traffic simulation
- Reproduction of real-world events from driving logs
- Sensor simulation using realistic physical models
- Synthetic data generation for training machine learning models
CI/CD Data Pipeline
- Build, test, simulate, and deploy binaries and machine learning models with CI/CD data pipeline optimized for autonomous driving
- Highly parallelized simulation execution
- Extensive tools for early detection of problems
- Efficient and smart upload of driving logs from vehicles
- Management of high-precision 3D maps, test scenarios, and machine learning models
- Driving log search, support for creating training and evaluation data sets
- High safety and availability
- Scheduling and tracking of registered vehicles
- Data post analysis and maintenance planning
- OTA software updates
- API for custom 3rd party apps
- Remote monitoring of vehicles status
- Remote emergency assistance
- Remote emergency driving
Examples of platform development and application
TIER IV has promoted the development of autonomous driving systems that utilize Pilot.Auto and Web.Auto for each reference design by working with a number of customers such as car manufacturers and service operators. Some of them have already started commercialization of autonomous driving services.
TIER IV and Yamaha Motor founded eve autonomy in April 2020 and have been jointly carrying out an expansion of the market for autonomous transport vehicles. In September 2021, eve autonomy announced the all-in-one autonomous transport service “eve auto.” This service was developed to meet the need for autonomous transport in closed spaces including indoor and outdoor environments. The company has a proven track record of actual operations at several factories including the Hamakita Factory of Yamaha Motor. The acceptance of the offer of a series of development and maintenance platforms for autonomous driving systems from a third party is a world first.
Based on the achievements and knowledge gained from this case study, TIER IV is also actively applying the platform to other autonomous driving services in Japan and overseas, aiming to work with partner companies to promote and accelerate the development of autonomous driving.
TIER IV installed the autonomous driving software platform in the e-Palette (battery-electric vehicle) of Toyota Motor Corporation and conducted autonomous driving field tests of mobility services at Odaiba, Tokyo Waterfront City from February to March 2022. For this project, TIER IV used Pilot.Auto as the base into which innovative concepts were incorporated to enhance vehicle control with consideration of ride comfort and adaptability to various driving situations. At the same time, TIER IV provided support for the establishment of a commercial-level operation system for autonomous buses using Web.Auto tools (e.g.,autonomous driving simulators and high-precision 3D map editing tool).
Furthermore, TIER IV is engaged in collaborations with other Japanese leading car manufacturers in the realm of large buses (seating capacity of more than 50). TIER IV has been engaged in building such shuttle buses using both Pilot.Auto and Web.Auto software platforms in collaboration with other car manufacturers since 2020 and has been moving forward with the development of shuttle buses with focus on practical application on public roads, beginning with the implementation of the platforms on vehicles that travel on dedicated vehicle lanes in restricted areas in airports.
TIER IV has been involved in vehicle development and field tests of Toyota Motors’ “JPN TAXI” since 2019. For JPN TAXI, TIER IV has been aggressively pursuing “advancements in autonomous driving technologies”, examples of which include changing lanes and avoiding street-parked cars in a congested environment, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication (e.g., signal information), and application of 5G to remote monitoring. TIER IV has also worked on “validating the business feasibility of autonomous driving services”, including verifying connections with other companies’ taxi call applications and remote control systems. At the same time, TIER IV has acquired a proven track record of driving robotaxis for distances exceeding several thousands of kilometers in field tests conducted in various regions in Japan including Nishi-Shinjuku and Odaiba, Tokyo.
TIER IV and Suzuki Motor Corporation have been jointly developing Level 4 autonomous vehicles since 2018 based on Suzuki’s MPV “Solio.” For this project, Suzuki is in charge of vehicle modification and the design and construction of a vehicle interface required for autonomous driving. On the other hand, TIER IV provides the software platforms and autonomous driving kit (system unit with integrated sensors and electronic control units (ECU)). Field tests were conducted on public roads in the Shonai area of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture in May 2022. Suzuki and TIER IV intend to continue the joint development of Level 4 autonomous vehicles in the coming years.
In December 2021, TIER IV and Foxconn Technology Group a leading electronics manufacturing service (EMS) provider and original design manufacturer (ODM) in Taiwan, have agreed on a joint development project to pursue planning and development of autonomous personal cars with the precondition of adopting Autoware as the autonomous driving system for electric vehicle (EV) platforms to be developed and manufactured by Foxconn in the future. TIER IV will provide a cloud-based DevOps software platform to Foxconn with the concept of “software-defined vehicle (SDV),” which indicates that the functions and performances of vehicles including autonomous driving features are enabled through the application of software. Furthermore, TIER IV intends to carry out the development of autonomous EVs for which maintenance and update are regularly achieved through such functions as CI/CD data pipelines and OTA.
In August 2021, TIER IV and Kawasaki Heavy Industries signed a memorandum on a collaboration to address last-mile logistics issues and launched a joint development project on autonomous delivery robots. Kawasaki Heavy Industries has developed and provides the main body of the delivery robot, which is equipped with TIER IV’s software platforms. Field tests have been conducted on roadside strips and sidewalks in the Nishi-Shinjuku and Kinshicho areas in Tokyo. Furthermore, the two companies have worked on the simultaneous control of several types of robots including a delivery robot developed by TIER IV with focus on the implementation of delivery robots in the society in the future.
TIER IV has formulated a roadmap to develop Pilot.Auto and Web.Auto for the application of the five reference designs.
- End of 2023: Regarding the Cargo Transport, TIER IV plans to increase functionality to Level 4 autonomy in closed and confined spaces such as factories, airports, and theme parks.
- End of 2025: Regarding the Shuttle Bus, TIER IV plans to implement its reference designs for Level 4 autonomous vehicles in local cities and implement it in more than 40 locations throughout Japan. As for the Cargo Transport, TIER IV plans to launch the application of its reference designs overseas, in addition to providing Level 3 functionality for the Personal Car.
- End of 2028: Regarding the Shuttle Bus, Robo-Taxi, and Personal Car, TIER IV plans to realize functions of its reference designs for Level 4 autonomous vehicles even in major urban areas. As for the Shuttle Bus, TIER IV plans to push forward with the application of its reference designs for Level 4 autonomous vehicles overseas.
- Around 2030: TIER IV plans to be compatible with major driving environments in Japan and overseas for each reference design.
TIER IV aims to improve customers’ autonomous driving development capabilities by offering Pilot.Auto and Web.Auto, which are end-to-end solutions for entire processes ranging from development to vehicle construction, adaptation, evaluation, and operation.
TIER IV intends to continue to provide autonomous driving software platforms to the market and form an ecosystem where any organization or individual can work on the development of autonomous driving technologies and service operations, thereby contributing to the realization of a safe and secure society through autonomous driving.
*1 Autoware is a registered trademark of the Autoware Foundation.
*2 DevOps is the acronym for “development” and “operations.” DevOps is used to build a system that enables close collaboration between a software development group and an installation/operation group so that software installation and updates can be carried out speedily.
*3 CI/CD is the acronym for “continuous integration” and “continuous delivery.” CI/CD refers to methods used for automating software building and testing, delivery, and deployment processes in software development and for continuously performing these tasks.
Source: TIER IV, INC.