A couple of interesting items came my way regarding autonomous vehicle technology. Every year sees better applications and more powerful tech. Then note in the releases X-as-a-Service applications. This idea just keeps expanding into more useful areas.
AI-capable “Supercomputer”—ZF ProAI.
ZF unveiled the latest model of its automotive supercomputer ZF ProAI just before the start of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The ZF ProAI RoboThink central control unit offers the highest performance of its kind in the industry according to the release. Vehicle manufacturers and mobility service providers additionally benefit from the system’s modularity and scalability. Today’s four models in the ZF ProAI product family can be optimally configured for any application – from a basic ADAS function right up to fully autonomous cars, commercial vehicles and industrial applications.
Customers can also specify their favorite software architecture. In the wake of booming services such as ride hailing, ZF also premiered its own software stack for new mobility concepts at the CES. This stack together with the latest ZF Pro AI and the company’s comprehensive sensor set represent a fully integrated system for driverless vehicles that can be easily adopted by the new players in the field of mobility services.
NVIDIA has named ZF one of its preferred partners for the launch of the new Level2+ NVIDIA DRIVE AutoPilot. Since ZF’s new product’s volume production starts within the next 12 months it is the only automotive grade AI capable supercomputer that can meet NIVIDIA’s ambitious timeline for the launch of their DRIVE AutoPilot from the beginning.
ZF’s CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider explained, “We are taking advantage of the fact that only ZF offers a supercomputer that is ready for volume production. Our open, flexible, modular and scalable ZF ProAI product family allows for just the right configuration of any application – for a variety of industries, and across all levels of automated driving.”
“We’re thrilled with the results of our collaboration with ZF. Their agility and system expertise has resulted in the incredibly rapid development of the ProAI platform enabling L2+ through L4/L5 robotaxi vehicles, leveraging NVIDIA’s DRIVE Xavier processors and DRIVE software,” said Rob Csongor, Vice President of Autonomous Machines, at NVIDIA. “ZF is now able to deliver to car makers advanced L2+ self-driving solutions for production starting in 2020 and the ability to quickly scale to higher levels of autonomy.”
“The unique selling proposition of the AI-capable ZF ProAI RoboThink is its modular hardware concept and open software architecture. Our aim is to provide the widest possible range of functions in the field of autonomous driving,” explained Torsten Gollewski, head of ZF Advanced Engineering and general manager of Zukunft Ventures GmbH.
Robo-taxis and autonomous people or cargo-movers are accelerating the development of central control units with much higher computing power. This is because powerful domain computers used in Mobility-as-a-Service applications not only manage the complex calculation of the surroundings based on a fusion of camera, radar and LIDAR data, they also integrate user data via the Cloud, payment systems and above all optimal route planning and implementation. Complex algorithms calculate these from the mobility and transport requirements of people or goods and can compare them in real time with the current traffic situation.
“The computing power of central computers in robo-taxis and autonomous people or cargo-movers will be significantly higher than for automated-driving passenger cars,” says Torsten Gollewski. “The demand from ride-hailing service providers for even more computing power has arisen much sooner than predicted. Today, the autonomous-driving market is being driven more by new mobility service providers than by established vehicle manufacturers.”
Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) Nearly Tripled Sales for the Second Year in a Row
Mobile Industrial Robots, the first mover and market leader in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), announced a second year of 160 percent revenue growth in 2018, a target the company established after accomplishing the same growth rate in 2017. The company’s success results, in large part, from MIR’s multinational customers, including Toyota Motor Corporation that is investing in fleets of mobile robots to optimize internal logistics and to gain competitive advantages in the production and supply chain. Thirty percent of MiR’s 2018 sales come from the Americas (27 percent in the United States and 3 percent in Latin America).
“Large multinational organizations, who are happy with the benefits they’ve received after trying one of our robots, are now investing in fleets spread across more of their plants, with some purchasing as many as 15 to 25 MiR robots at a time,” said Thomas Visti, CEO of MiR. “Our robots make it easy for these companies to follow the increasing shift to a mass-customization model, where they manufacture a higher number of customized products in smaller batches, requiring an agile production facility with flexible and easily adaptable logistics. Our user-friendly technology fits this model well.”
Growth from new products and new “robots as a service” offering to help more companies benefit
In addition to increased sales of multiple robots to companies like Toyota, which already uses MiR robots to optimize logistics in plants in the U.S. and Asia, the company’s growth in 2018 also came from the launch of the MiR500. Forty percent of sales of the MiR500, which can pick-up, transport, and deliver pallets, have come from U.S. companies. The continuous growth worldwide means that MiR expects 2019 will bring even more new products, along with 100 new employees and new offices in the U.S., China, and Japan. According to Visti, the company also expects to increase revenue as much, if not more, over the next year, while expanding the types of companies that can benefit from autonomous mobile robots.