This computer-generated traffic intersection scene was created in VectorZero's RoadRunner program. (Kami Buchholz)

Computer-generated scenes provide virtual testing for autonomous vehicles

The next million miles of autonomous-vehicle test roadways await in a start-up company’s virtual -orld toolbox that is targeting its next release for early 2019.

“For each mile of real-world autonomous-vehicle testing, developers will test hundreds of thousands of simulated driving miles,” declared Alex Goldberg, CTO of VectorZero, a Carlsbad, California start-up company whose RoadRunner software product debuted in July 2018.

RoadRunner enables users to create virtual roads that incorporate curvature, vertical slope, banking and crowning.

“These virtual environments can include imagined locations as well as real-world courses and roadways. With RoadRunner’s intuitive user interface, anyone can create complex roadways and intersections in minutes,” Goldberg explained.

Gil Amid, Vice President of Operations and Business Development for Foretellix, an Israeli-based start-up company focused on giga-scale intelligent verification of autonomous systems, likes the ease-of-use with the RoadRunner product. “It enables a quick and productive way to build a selection of road topologies using a comfortable graphical user interface,” according to Amid.

The ability to create virtual roads with intersections, lane markings, traffic signals and other features is vital on the pathway of achieving SAE Level 5 automation, according to Goldberg.

“Level 5 requires robust and safe behavior in an immense number of scenarios and locations — far too many to test on real roadways. That’s why the ability to model detailed virtual environments and scenarios is critical to enable testing of unlikely scenarios for both internal development and regulatory validation of autonomous vehicle candidates,” noted Goldberg.

Virtual roads can be a viable testing companion to closed-course and public-road testing of autonomous vehicles.

“Let’s say you want to recreate the scene where there has been an accident involving an autonomous vehicle,” said Peter Fryscak, VectorZero’s Director of Business Development. “With RoadRunner, you can quickly model the roads and surrounding environment and then load it into your simulator to reproduce and study the incident.”

RoadRunner scenes can be built on Windows or Linux platforms. “We can import geographic information system (GIS) files, aerial images, elevation maps, point-cloud and other data for translation into a realistic scene. That scene can then be exported in simulation formats, including OpenDrive, Unreal, Unity, and FBX,” said Fryscak.

In early 2019, VectorZero plans to release a ‘scenario’ editor. “This product will include a wide range of configurable vehicular and pedestrian traffic participants with convincing animations,” Goldberg noted.   Continue reading »