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Driverless cars lead to Melbourne

Here here: Mapping company Here will demonstrate its breakthrough driverless car technologies in Melbourne at the ITS World Congress.

Latest global autonomous vehicle technologies set to break cover in Australia

30 Jun 2016

AUSTRALIA is set to take centre stage in one of the biggest developments in automotive technology – driverless vehicles – when Melbourne hosts the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in October.

Global mapping giant Here – the European company behind satellite navigation systems in millions of vehicles around the world – has confirmed to GoAuto it is planning to demonstrate its latest autonomous vehicle technologies at the conference that is expected to be attended by a who’s who of intelligent transport systems (ITS) experts among more than 7000 delegates representing government, corporations, motoring organisations and academia from 60 countries.

To be held over four days from October 10 at the Melbourne Convention Centre, the conference comes at a critical time in the development of driverless vehicles, with automotive companies and governments wrestling not only with technologies but also potential road laws and uniform global standards.

Just this week, the European public-private organisation responsible for such matters across the continent, Ertico ITS, announced that 11 automotive companies had agreed to support a new open-data language that allows vehicles to share traffic and road condition warnings via a cloud-based system.

Developed by Here – a former Nokia branch now owned by German automotive giants Audi, Daimler and BMW – the software interface standard is being pitched by Ertico to sister organisations in the United States, Asia-Pacific, Japan and Australia as the basis for an international standard for such data transfer.

These ITS organisations are jointly staging the 2016 Melbourne World Congress, with ITS Australia as the host with support from the Victorian government.

As well as conference activities, the congress will include a commercial exhibition and a demonstration area for driverless vehicles.

Here Asia-Pacific director Brent Stafford confirmed this week that his company would be one of the organisations to show off its latest autonomous vehicle wares at the show.

“At the ITS world conference in Melbourne in October we will see many of these technologies on trial,” he said.

“There will be a huge array of demonstrations coming out. I can’t tell you what we are doing yet but we are going to be doing some exciting things as well.”

Mr Stafford said the conference was also a great place to have the political debate on the ethical standards of driverless vehicles.

“These are being talked about frequently,” he said. “Like, do I run over the dog or child – god forbid – or do I swerve and have a head on with another car if the other car is ready to have a collision with my car?“All these decisions of ethical engineering are continuing and that’s appropriate and timely (to discuss them). We will all see the benefits from it.”

Mr Stafford also revealed that Here had already mapped roads covering 90 per cent of Australia’s population in readiness for serious testing of driverless vehicles once governments give the go-ahead.

He said so-called highly assisted driving (HAD) required a higher level of mapping than ever before.

“We have had to build this map of Australia well in advance of anyone even beginning to test because we have to get that digital infrastructure right, robust and reliable prior to people doing even the initial tests,” he said.

“We have done that. We see the market well ahead and we hope to reap commercial reward out of that investment, not of the standards but of the products that we will sell into vehicles of tomorrow.”

Mr Stafford said the standards behind such systems required a co-operative approach to maximise the benefit.

“We are at this realisation now that to achieve really robust outcomes for society – safety, security, efficiency and environment – across different modes of transport, it is a bigger issue to solve than one party can solve on their own,” he said.

“I think there is recognition now from the broader industry that if we collaborate, we can achieve far greater outcomes collectively.

“If you took data from just BMWs or just Toyotas, there is actually not enough data coming in to solve the problem.

“If you have mass exchange or interchange of data, you solve the problems.”

The standards developed by Here for data exchange from vehicle-to-cloud-to-vehicle were designed on an open-source basis to allow stakeholders to get involved and to have input into global standard for the final universal software used across all vehicles.

Effectively, the system allows vehicles to “see around corners” by tapping into information uploaded to the cloud by other vehicles in the area.

“The problems might relate to roads, such as suspension data detecting a pothole, or it could be that there is an accident ahead or there is rain ahead,” Mr Stafford said.

“Or it could be that, hey, there is rain in this area, we need to dispatch more taxis to this location or that there might be potential for more accidents in this area and so we need to pre-position emergency services in that area.

“So, there are so many uses if we collaborate as a broader industry to achieve much better outcomes than we may be able to achieve as individual stakeholders, who still have their own commercial drivers or own policy drivers.

“There already is a body of work happening on these issues in Australia at the moment – there are lots of collaborative initiatives, and this (vehicle-to-cloud data standard) is another reference point in those initiatives.

“By co-operating, we can look to solve one of many problems we have to solve on the path to autonomous vehicles.”

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