A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


The Future of Urban Mobility – I Have Driven It!

I have driven what could be the future of Urban Mobility. I have driven in it, to be precise – somebody else was controlling it. The future looks exciting, a bit concerning at times, but definitely interesting. Interesting especially for electronics, because the type of developments necessary to enable future Urban Mobility is pretty mind boggling and a definite driver for semiconductors and new design techniques.

x10cosv021[1]But let’s back up … what is Urban Mobility? By 2030, according to a presentation recently given by GM at the SMART Technology Conference in San Francisco,60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, up from 50% today. Within 20 years, 80% of wealth will be concentrated in cities. And as the urban population increases, traffic congestion in large metro areas will become an even bigger issue than it is today. If you have traveled to Taiwan, you have seen scooters everywhere. Similar scenarios are true in Chinese metropolitan areas with bicycles. As congestion improves, Urban Mobility becomes a real issue and concepts like GM’s EN-V may offer a solution.

imageCourtesy of GM-Ventures I was able to check out two of the rare concept cars in their Palo Alto office. The picture here shows me in the EN-V Miao (Magic). The one I was actually able to drive in is called the EN-V Xiao(Laugh). Quite cool. It feels essentially like an enclosed Segway for two people. When starting, it lifts off and balances on two wheels (here is a pretty cool animation of the chassis and drivetrain).

In terms of electronics, the EN-V is a goldmine for future electronics. It features GPS, a smart phone for remote parking and retrieval, a forward vision sensor for object and collision detection, and forward range sensors for slow speed object and collision detection. The En-V drives autonomously so that passengers can relax and do video conferences with friends and family while on the way to work. It finds parking spots itself and communicates with other vehicles on the road, for example, to negotiate access while approaching intersections. I have seen videos (animated that is), in which the EN-V approaches a four way intersection without stopping – all courtesy of object detection and inter-vehicle communication.

The design challenges in a complex system like that are huge and offer great potential for more and improved design tools. Just think of laying out the network within the device and all the cross-talk effects. The protocol and software effects for networking within the vehicle as well as between vehicles are a definite challenge. The coordination of all the information necessary for driving and presenting it using a Human Machine Interface (HMI) is a very complex task in itself. And of course bringing together all the mechanical and electronic effects will require complex cross-domain simulation.

The EN-V is a concept vehicle today. If it becomes a reality then automotive electronics will create even more complex challenges and require new design techniques. The industry is definitely well aware. If you want to hear first hand about some of the requirements, challenges and potential solutions, there will be a full day workshop called “Intra and Inter-Vehicle Networking in Automotive: Past, Present, and Future” at the upcoming Design Automation Conference in San Diego. I will be there and give a presentation how Synopsys enables design for automotive applications. Join us for the discussion, I am looking forward to seeing you there!

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