Welcome to 2018… Our best year yet

Happy New Year and after a very exciting 2017, we’re back for our bigger event format for 2018.  With a change of venue, to the focal point of the UK’s autonomous industry, Milton Keynes, (just around the corner from the fantastic Transport System Catapult), we’ll be opening the doors to around 150 people and a wide variety of technology companies, demonstration vehicles and guest speakers – all gathering to support your growth and development in this exciting field.

Book your tickets here >>

Tickets explained… The standard ticket includes your choice of workshops, autonomous vehicle demonstrations and access to the exhibition, along with refreshments all day and lunch.  The ‘networking’ ticket includes access to the exclusive evening session, where you can relax, continue conversations, and enjoy complimentary go-karting and BBQ dinner.

There’s lots going on in 2018 and, apart from being part of the ‘Year of Engineering 2018’, you’ll also be able to join us for the first time at the London Motor Show, where we’ll be helping the AutoSens team curate a brand new Autonomy Zone.

We’ll be in Nottingham at the Midlands Intelligent Mobility Conference at the end of January too, so if you’re heading there, come and say hello!

If you’re making resolutions, make sure attending Self Driving Track Days is on the list – and what better time to book than during the discount period running all month?

Have a great 2018, and see you soon.

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley
Co-founder, Self Driving Track Days

Why attend? Autonomous Vehicle Demo

Book Your Tickets – 10 July 2018 at Daytona Milton Keynes, UK

Book your place

Year of Engineering 2018

We are delighted to be part of the Year of Engineering 2018.

YoE is a government backed programme of events spanning across the UK, encouraging people of all ages (but especially younger people) to engage with science, technology, engineering and maths – and consider working in fields using these topics.

As an event which celebrates and connects engineers, we are proud to support this initiative and are pleased to encourage people from all backgrounds to consider engineering, in all forms, as a potential career.

There is no single industry which does not need engineers, and the ecosystem of technologies used in autonomous vehicles is as diverse as it is exciting, with ideas and applications of STEM skills included in mechanical, electrical, digital and even civil engineering. Outside our regular topic of autonomous road vehicles, these technologies are used in the air, under water, even in space – as well as in logistics, industrial manufacturing processes in factories, and agriculture.

The engineers we see at our events come from and go towards many different industries and we are keen to fly the flag on their behalf and tell everyone that being an engineer can take you anywhere.

New Autonomous Vehicle Zone at the London Motor Show 2018!

Hi everyone!  Just me checking in with some fantastic news that I felt obliged to write about. 

Along with AutoSens, our sister event series in the international vehicle perception sector, we are taking over a major part of The Confused.com London Motor Show 2018 with a brand new Autonomous Vehicle Zone.

It’s remarkable to think that we’ve come so far in only 16 months since we launched, and that we’ll leapfrog to join the likes of the largest auto events in the world to tell the story of the future of transport.

I have started chatting to people about this announcement over the last couple of weeks, and it’s clear that 2018 is going to be a fantastic year for the sector, particularly in the UK – and that means we are expanding too, as our in-house team approaches double figures.

New courses are coming (both accredited and online), new technology is coming, recruiters are getting busier and investment is accelerating across Europe, so it’s a great time to be thrust into the public’s imagination to help changing hearts and minds, talking about the challenges and opportunities ahead, and sharing the journey.

This announcement will be seen more widely by the public, the mainstream and automotive media over the coming days, and of course we are keen to flesh out the announcement with more details of the features, exhibitors and exciting discussions that we’ll be able to bring to you in May 2018.

Finally, a treat for those of you that are avid fans.. ticketing for Self Driving Track Days will be live soon, and we’ll be giving away one place at the July event in Milton Keynes before Christmas to one lucky person that joins the mailing list in the first two weeks of December 🙂

Have a great holiday season!

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley [LinkedIn]

Co-Founder of Self Driving Track Days and Head of New Projects at Sense Media Group.

Save the date – 2018 event date announced

Coming to the year’s end gives us a chance to review what we’ve achieved, and sometimes that means doing things differently – so we’ll do fewer but bigger events… that includes working on The London Motor Show 2018 developing a brand new exciting feature there.

It would be easy to carry on as before but as an event organiser, it’s important to take on feedback so we are moving to a UK venue in the autonomous vehicle heartland of Milton Keynes and shortening the event to one day.

We trialed this event format in Austria in July 2017 and it worked very well for attendees and sponsors (who typically have quite large overhead costs to consider in their commitment to taking part).

The event will include a number of half-day workshops, a small exhibition and of course, our driverless vehicle demonstrations, with space for 150 attendees to come and take part.  Lunch will be included, and there will be a BBQ and karting in the evening as an optional extra.

Please add the date to your diary… Tuesday 10th July 2018 at Daytona Karting, Milton Keynes.

We’ll be confirming more details in early 2018, so if you are not already on the mailing list, please sign up now.

2017 – a review of our first year

This year has been remarkable for the automotive and technology industries, between mergers and acquisitions in the technology space, to new innovations, technologies and investments.

Waymo’s driverless vehicles are going in to public service in the US, and Uber has ordered 24,000 Volvo cars to create an enormous driverless fleet.  Closer to home, Jaguar Land Rover and parent company Tata have run driverless demos on public roads, last week we saw the UK government promise more investment for Robotics and AI, and the UK’s new Industrial Strategy launched to coalesce aligned and supportive industries to increase productivity.

Here at Sense Media Group, we’ve grown from 3 to 7 people, have run events in the UK and Austria, plus more workshops and demonstrations in the US and Belgium too, and we’ve been involved in everything from TV shows to development of standards and even government policy!

AutoSens, sister brand to Self Driving Track Days, has gone from strength to strength and has now become the most influential conference in the vehicle perception eco-system, globally, and will next year return to the awesome AutoWorld Museum in Brussels, as well as the Michigan Science Center in Detroit – and of course with driverless technology demonstrations at both!

The AutoSens Awards also launched, celebrating the engineers and technologists working in the commercial sector, as well as highlighting fantastic community efforts and journalism, as well as outreach and education projects supporting the self-driving car revolution.

It’s not just about us…

Some of the startups and smaller innovative companies in our ecosystem, as well as larger more established companies have had a great year too. AutonomouStuff and Quantum, last year’s series sponsors, are working together to create new products, while NXP and Intempora, another pair of last year’s supporters, are jointly marketing products too, finding new efficiencies and customers thanks to embracing our mantra of shared working and collaborative spirit. Innoviz Technologies, a small Israeli LiDAR startup we first came across at the beginning of the year, have ended it with a huge investment (more than $100m) and a haul of awards and plaudits from across industry.

Petrolheads are a significant part of this journey, and last week’s Guy Martin vs the Robot Car, on Channel 4, was an exciting demonstration of why it’s so hard to complete this development journey.  We first met the production team in November 2016 at our very first track event, so seeing the final results on TV is tremendously satisfying and great to see an understandable and accessible programme on a complex topic.  It was also great to see that the systems put into place by our friends at AB Dynamics, who demonstrated their technology at our first event, were able to beat the famed Roborace car! I’m certain that’s won’t take long to change though…

Save the date!

Coming to the year’s end gives us a chance to review what we’ve achieved, and sometimes that means doing things differently – so we’ll do fewer but bigger events… that includes working on The London Motor Show 2018 developing a brand new exciting feature there.

It would be easy to carry on as before but as an event organiser, it’s important to take on feedback so we are moving to a UK venue in the autonomous vehicle heartland of Milton Keynes and shortening the event to one day.

We trialed this event format in Austria in July 2017 and it worked very well for attendees and sponsors (who typically have quite large overhead costs to consider in their commitment to taking part).

The event will include a number of half-day workshops, a small exhibition and of course, our driverless vehicle demonstrations, with space for 150 attendees to come and take part.  Lunch will be included, and there will be a BBQ and karting in the evening as an optional extra.

Please add the date to your diary… Tuesday 10th July 2018 at Daytona Karting, Milton Keynes.

We’ll be confirming more details in early 2018, so if you are not already on the mailing list, please sign up now.

Signing off

I am looking forward to 2018 being a year when the media hype starts turning into real and lasting positive change, as industries start gearing up for the autonomous future.

Have a great holiday season and we’ll hopefully see you soon.

Alex Lawrence-Berkeley, Co-founder [LinkedIn]

Austria 2017 review

ÖAMTC Fahrzentrum Teesdorf played host to the final Self Driving Track Days event of our inaugural 2016-2017 series.

In the region of Baden, Austria, only a short journey from Vienna, around 90 people attended this exciting one-day event, experiencing demonstrations in vehicles provided by TU Graz and Virtual Vehicle Research Center, both based in the country, and learning from engineers and technology developers working on autonomous vehicle technology.

Support from industry

Workshop sessions were hosted by 3-hour sessions were delivered by specialists from TU GrazCodeplay SoftwareAIMotiveHoriba Mira, with further contributions from NovAtelQuantum, and a joint demonstration from NXP and Intempora, with valued support from DataSpeed in the exhibition, demos and panel Q&A session chaired by co-founder Alex Lawrence-Berkeley at the end of the day.

International event

Attendees from Austria, as well as travellers from Poland, Germany and the UK, attended talks by speakers from countries including the US, UK, France and Hungary at a unique and buzzing event which received very positive feedback from sponsors, speakers and attendees alike.

What attendees said

  • “Organization is perfect… price to performance ratio is outstanding” Tomasz Bialek, FEV Polska
  • “At Self Driving Track Days Austria I got to meet several major companies in the field of autonomous driving. I had a blast, especially while catching a ride with a self-driving car.” Kaspar Sakmann, T-Mobile Austria.
  • “It was meaningful to know and experience the state-of-the-art self driving technology. First of all it was good chance to take a test run on autonomous vehicle. In addition to this event was very well organized.” Chansong Jeong, FH Technikum Wien.
    Arpad Takacs, Outreach Scientist at AI Motive, delivering the “AI in the ecosystem of self driving cars” workshop
  • “Good talks, interesting in-car demos and networking opportunities.” Sebastian Busch, Elektrobit Austria GmbH
  • “A super one day event with a wide variety of information.” Christian Aschauer, Universität für Bodenkultur,Institut für Landtechnik.

Outreach and visibility in the community

It was evident from where the attendees had heard about the event that Self Driving Track Days is reaching groups, companies and organisations that typically don’t access international events, including various meetup groups, small companies and researchers in smaller companies and academic organisations.

Arno Eichberger, or TU Graz, being interviewed by Austrian TV

Media coverage

Broadcast, online and print media were in attendance, with features online, on national TV and on radio by the Austrian national broadcaster, ORF, as well as online features in industry magazines Fleet & Economy, Car & Economy, international online coverage on IEEE Spectrum’s Cars That Think. See more…

Support through the year

It’s important for us, as well as the hundreds of people that have engaged with demonstrations, workshops and events we have run in this first year to take a moment and thank all of the companies that have made this possible:

Firstly out partners and sponsors, AutonomouStuff, NovAtel, Quantum Corporation, Intempora, NXP, LeddarTech – without whom Self Driving Track Days would not have happened at all.

Our friends in the industry that have worked so hard to provide demonstrations on-track, including DataSpeed Inc, Anthony Best Dynamics, Virtual Vehicle Research Center and TU Graz

Many other people that have helped along the way, such as journalists, numerous guest speakers at our meetup and track events, marketing teams, venue crew, contractors and colleagues, insurers, camera crew and especially all the meetup group organisers that have helped promote these unique events to their communities of interested people – above all others, as volunteers, they have made the biggest difference – please support them!

What’s next

A note from Alex:

“It’s been a crazy year, a very steep learning curve and utterly exhausting.  I am grateful to my colleagues in Sense Media, especially Rob Stead, for supporting this challenging project and I am looking forward to seeing it grow and mature in such a short space of time.  

Self Driving Track Days will return with more events in 2018, but if you can’t wait for your autonomous technology fix, please sign up to the mailing list for updates and news about future events, and check out AutoSens this September in Brussels, which is the much bigger industry event we also organise. See you next year!”

Media coverage – Austria

Our Self Driving Track Days events aren’t just for learning, outreach or marketing, they’re also about helping media outlets start to really understand some of the technologies that are used in autonomous vehicles, how they work, why they are necessary and how they are used.

We always work closely with media outlets to help provide the message that there are many opportunities for technology development (for new companies looking at this field) as well as research, and of course skills development and employment opportunities for individuals – these outlets reach far more people than we could just through our own marketing.

We often attract coverage on national TV, as well as national-publications in the auto and technology industries – and our event in Austria was no exception!

Here’s a selection of some of the coverage we’ve received for this event:

IEEE Spectrum – Online news story – Carmakers take to the (self driving) test track

Virtual Vehicle Research CenterVIRTUAL VEHICLE Automated Drive Demonstrator at the “Self Driving Track Days”

KFZ WirtschaftHands off the wheel

TraktuellAutonomous driving experience at the Self Driving Track Days Vienna

ORF (Austrian national broadcaster) – Online news story: Self Driving Cars in Practice test (German language)

On national TV news:

Upcoming coverage:

AUTO & Wirtschaft
Flotte & Wirtschaft

Meridian Mobility Technology – the new name for the UK CAV Hub

Meridian Mobility Technology is the new name for the UK’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Hub, announced in March, and will take on some of the direct oversight tasks managing R&D projects which have been part-funded by the UK government.

Its role is wide ranging and as yet, slightly fluid, but will be a grant-funded (by the taxpayer) subsidiary of the Advanced Propulsion Centre and work closely with the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Some of its indirect responsibilities will be to act as a central body for promotion of the industry, attracting investment from outside the UK, support export from companies in the sector, and develop approaches to improve skills development in the sector.

We have been consulted and involved in some of the events leading up to this organisation’s creation and look forward to its activities and influence in this quickly growing and exciting sector.

Further details about the organisation’s exact structure, purpose, funding and activities will be announced in the near future, but you heard it here first!

NovAtel on Satellite positioning

NovAtel are a series-sponsor for Self Driving Track Days and will be presenting in the afternoon workshop session of Introduction to self-driving car technologies (positioning, software and processing).

In the last few days before the event, we talked to Andreas Niemann, NovAtel’s Business Development Manager, based in Germany – about positioning technology for autonomous vehicles, and what changes are expected in the future.

Satellite-based navigation has been a useful tool for consumers for 20 years, how will that change in the next 20 years? 

Although current tools may be sufficient for consumer applications that are not safety critical, this is not a tool that can be used ‘as is’ for applications like (conditionally) autonomous cars or other unmanned vehicles.

Accuracy levels required for applications such as military vehicles, ships, agriculture or in the offshore oil industry already since the beginning of GPS more than 20 years ago, must be adopted for safety critical functions for cars within the next generations of car lines. NovAtel has been a pioneer in positioning for the mentioned non-consumer markets since the beginning.

The biggest differences for future satellite-based navigation systems to today’s navigation devices performance will be in the availability of positioning (always available) and in the integrity of positioning (always trustable). It will become a system that is crucial for safety-of-life applications.

GPS signals are prone to atmospheric interference, problems in urban environments and even bad weather – how can you counter-act these?

NovAtel, being part of the Hexagon group, is able to utilize our group-owned correction services for satellite-based positioning. They can compensate and correct the known issues: clock differences between satellites and receivers, satellite orbit deviations and errors caused by the ionosphere.

For example, customers can access to the global Terrastar PPP service (Precise Point Positioning by Hexagon) with NovAtel receivers either through a certain satellite constellation or through cellular internet connection. Correction performance will be continuously improved by investing in further ground stations and continuous R&D. Already today, cm-level accuracy is possible to achieve, even under non-ideal reception situations.

NovAtel is a leader in designing multi-constellation multi-frequency receivers – not only GPS (USA), but GLONASS (Russia), Beidou (China) and Gallileo (Europe) – that greatly improve availability and accuracy of the positioning performance and reduction of outages.

Another great step will be achieved for example in cars by utilizing inertial sensors or simply sensors that are installed in cars anyway (wheel, steering etc.) to optimize the output. The performance of that kind of positioning will be incomparably better than all systems that are available today in consumer type devices.

What are the drawbacks of these techniques?

The backbone of the techniques mentioned is already existing:

Correction networks are running, more satellite constellations will be added and go into operation mode. Positioning algorithms have been developed to improve positioning continuously. NovAtel has a further roadmap to improve algorithms further.

This will take more time and continuous improvement and requires close cooperation with the end customer, the car maker and/or system integrators.

We expect the positioning system to become more customer specific i.e. for autonomous cars as the car behaviour (delivered by sensors installed in the car) will be an input for the navigation system itself. It will take a lot of development effort on both sides, at the car maker as well as the GNSS system provider, but we know that the awareness and understanding has been built.

Precision GPS equipment is really expensive – If organisations like startups and universities need hardware to develop a new product, what support is available?

We are opening channels to work with Universities and customers at the same time to maximise the efficiency of such cooperation, i.e. in 3-party agreements. NovAtel works actively together with Universities, such as Stanford, and has established relationships with a large number of startups and we are supporting them in their R&D work.

It is not all about providing equipment to customers, universities or startups, the key of success is understanding their intention and then decide together what the best technical and commercial approach is to achieve the target. Our partners trust NovAtel to propose the best solution short and long term.

Can’t they just use their smartphone with the accelerometer?

Smartphones are receiving satellite signals on a single frequency without any of the corrections mentioned above. That is accurate-enough for a lot of consumer type of application (i.e. simple navigation from A to B or tracking sports activities) but not accurate enough to deliver precise positioning results under different conditions (open sky, urban environment etc).

Ideally they could deliver metre-level accuracy but not as often as required for high-precision and safety-critical applications, hence, they are not reliable.

Speaking of smartphones, why does my smartphone get hot when I’m using the maps – and is this also a problem that affects precision-grade GPS systems?

Navigation/Positioning is a hardware and software feature of smartphones, which requires computing power within the GPS/GNSS receiver of the smartphone and also by the central processor of the smartphone. Same as with any other computer the device gets warm indicating significant computing activity.

That’s normal and no problem for any system running within specified limits at all.

In battery powered portable devices it will just discharge the battery faster than without using GPS/GNSS and requires earlier recharging.

The electronic content of cars has grown a lot in the past and will grow significantly.  The power consumption caused by electronic systems in general will increase but high-precision GPS/GNSS alone represents only a very small fraction of that.

The next generation of satellite navigation systems will include what features to make them more accurate?

NovAtel’s R&D efforts on positioning accuracy balance cost, speed and accuracy.

Similar as the answer to the question what will happen in the next 20 years, features such as multi-constellation (not only receiving the positioning signals from the US’ GPS satellite constellation, but also from the Russian GLONASS, the European Galileo, the Chinese BEIDOU or other future constellations) will increase availability.

Multifrequency reception will increase accuracy which will be supported by further software optimization. Other things such a as sensor fusion of various external signals such as inertial sensors, wheel sensors etc will be limited to applications where this is absolutely needed as it will also increase the system cost. Sensor fusion algorithms will also achieve a yet to be determined increase in positioning reliability.

For automotive, compliance to ISO26262 (Road Vehicles – Functional safety) is mandatory and will develop the GPS/GNSS feature into application that are safety (of life) critical. In that case it is important that the positioning is not only precise but absolutely trustworthy. Methods to enable that are currently been researched.

What are the biggest priorities with GPS research and product development right now?

  • Development of hardware and software-algorithms to make them compliant with ISO26262 for automotive safety and integrity.
  • Sensor-fusion to provide a consistent and reliable position.
  • Instant availability of global correction services (i.e. PPP)

 


The company is one of the leading developers of new positioning technologies, and have published An Introduction to GNSS, a free eBook, to help improve understanding of the technology.  [Andreas kindly responded to our questions in his second language, we have edited lightly for clarity.]

Developing driverless cars with safety in mind

Everyone’s talking about testing and safety of Autonomous vehicles, from design through production and evaluation – all well before the general public get into production vehicles – but who does this, and how?

Functional Safety is the automotive industry’s answer. Developed from the pioneering work on safety that evolved through the US space programme, the main standard for the automotive sector is ISO 26262, the second edition of which will be released in late 2017.

John Birch is Chief Engineer for Functional Safety at Horiba Mira.

I caught up briefly with the very busy but charming John Birch, Chief Engineer for Functional Safety at Horiba Mira, who will be leading a special ½ day workshop on Functional Safety Considerations for ADAS and Autonomous Vehicles at OAMTC Teesdorf on 28 July.

You’re with us in Austria talking about Functional Safety with Autonomous Vehicles – why is that important, even for people new to the area?

Even for a prototype vehicle used in a controlled environment there are functional safety considerations that should be evaluated and addressed.

These should addressed in a documented safety case that can be reviewed and assessed by the relevant stakeholders. What is important is to be able to tailor the ISO 26262 standard to the vehicle systems and use cases of interest to ensure a safety case that adds maximum value.

Can’t everything be picked up in the testing of the system after it’s complete?

System test is an important piece of the jigsaw but would never be considered to be sufficient due to the infinite number of cases to be considered. A solid basis for developing the safety requirements upon which the testing can be founded is crucial.

What do you think about the Self Driving Track Days project – is community outreach important?

Absolutely. Many of the safety-related considerations of autonomous vehicles have an ethical element that will need to be informed by forming and gauging the views of the general public.


Join us at OAMTC Teesdorf to attend the workshop, with a general Introduction to functional safety, Introduction to ISO 26262; Lifecycle, Safety Management, Concept Phase, System Development, Hardware and Software Development and Specific functional safety considerations for ADAS and autonomy.