At the time, we couldn’t drive our self-driving car in the open so we had to find another way to test our cars.
Driving in the open has two drawbacks:
- You need to be established, have authorizations, and accumulated miles
- Everybody sees you, so project secrets can’t go there
Personally, the project I was working on was at the time secret until the VivaTechnology event in Spring.
Once it was done, I could happily tweet about the project! Discover the secret project here!
It was September, and we had to find somewhere to work without being seen.
Where would you go? Parking lots are way too small for our use cases.
Today, I will talk to you about an existing solution that can fix a lot of problems.
This solution can allow you to be free of prying eyes, do every single test that you wish, and without requiring state permission.
But you will also read that it has a lot of discomforts, so be sure to know what you are asking for.
The solution we found is an autonomous driving test track.
A test track is a place where car manufacturers can come and test their cars on giant loops where the cars can drive up to 300km/h and can even drive tilted.
Yes, here’s what I mean!
These are the giant rings.
When going fast, it feels like you are completely lateral. In reality, you are tilted at 50°.
I have personally not been in this lane for a long time (a few seconds), but it is very impressive.
Car manufacturers have used these rings for decades.
I have been on this one in Mortefontaine, France.
100% of the area is monitored every second, with cameras everywhere, emergency teams ready to intervene, and walky-talkies for everyone.
Inside of the buildings, hundreds of prototype cars from dozens of companies are being designed and tested.
Most of these prototypes are secrets.
To be sure that you can keep a secret, the security teams put a humidity-sensitive sticker on all of your phone and laptop cameras.
If you ever remove the sticker, they will discover it and ask you for your phone to remove your pictures.
They will analyze your behavior on cameras and see that you didn’t try to steal industrial secrets.
So, unfortunately, I won’t have any pictures for you.
Once you get access to a test track, you also get access to a secured place to park your self-driving car.
This is where the fun begins.
You get to take the car in the morning, do every single test that you’d like, and return it to the garage when it’s done.
You can choose to drive at 90, you can choose to drive on the lateral rings, …
And in some of these areas, you can simulate pedestrian action or even drive in a jungle.
Have you ever seen fake cities developed for self-driving cars?
This is UBER’s city in Pittsburg. All the cars are made of realistic cardboard.
This is sort of the same thing, but you don’t need to be UBER to use it.
Is this adapted to self-driving cars?
Originally, this is made for real cars.
In Europe, UTAC company recently introduced TEQMO, a simulation center 100% designed for self-driving cars! This is unique in Europe!
I will link you to the video at the end!
Now, what is the drawback?
To be able to engineer an environment like this one, you need space.
Space means you can’t do it in Paris.
Sometimes, you will have to drive for one to two hours just to get there…
… Or sleep for days in a hotel away from everything.
It can quickly become an outside manual job.
If you’re just at the beginning of the car conception, it will be even worse because you will need technicians anytime the car has a technical issue not related to code.
And dozens of these can happen each day.
The temperature can be very cold if you’re working in winter.
In the upcoming future, we might see more initiatives like this one!