Member: virtualcitySYSTEMS GmbH
Featured Standard: ASAM OpenDRIVE®
Virtual testing is essential for the development of safe and reliable autonomous vehicles. Until recently, however, the virtual representations of urban environments and urban street spaces were created with fundamentally different data modelling approaches, which prevented the development of integrated driving applications that could simultaneously account for environmental features, road conditions and other road properties on a large scale. To overcome these complex technical limitations, GIS experts at Virtual City Systems engaged with ASAM OpenX working groups to further develop existing data standards as well as create a new software solution that converts ASAM’s OpenDRIVE Standard data format for describing 3D road spaces into GIS data formats such as CityGML, the global Standard data format for semantic 3D city models. These developments enabled a standardized methodology for designing a virtual test field to be established in the city of Ingolstadt as part of the research and development project SAVe under the leadership of AUDI AG. The final software product will enable previously impossible automotive and mobility applications, which in turn will support Smart City initiatives and Digital Twins.
Autonomous driving is entirely reliant on vehicle sensors that can respond to the surrounding environment in real time. In the development of these sensors, virtual testing saves enormous amounts of time and money and ensures the vehicles are safe and reliable before putting them on the road with human drivers. However, this testing requires an exact virtual representation of the environment, which has presented a major technical challenge for engineers and software developers.
Virtual City Systems has been contributing to the development of integrated virtual mobility applications through its participation in ASAM OpenX activities and particularly the SAVe research and development project. SAVe, which stands for functionality and traffic safety in automated and networked driving, is led by AUDI AG in the automobile company’s home city of Ingolstadt. The project received 4 million Euro in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and is supported by Virtual City Systems and partners like 3D Mapping Solutions, Carrissma (Center of Automotive Research on Integrated Safety Systems at TH Ingolstadt), and many others.
Virtual City System’s primary role as experts for geodata-based 3D city model solutions in the SAVe project was to help develop the methodology for a virtual autonomous driving test field in Ingolstadt. To do this, the team would have to first overcome the limitations of current modelling methods and bring them together under a common standardized data format.
Merging digital lanes with environmental models in Ingolstadt posed technical challenges
“Traditionally, these virtual images are created by two different technical disciplines using different acquisition methods,” explains Stefan Trometer, Managing Director of Business Development at Virtual City Systems. “Environmental models, which include objects such as buildings and vegetation, are typically based on the official cadastral survey and generated according to the principal of boundary surface representation. In contrast, street space models, which include features like lanes and street signs, are captured and distributed by surveying companies as parametric models for driving Simulation software tools.”
ASAM OpenDRIVE had already established an open, globally accepted format for the semantic and detailed 3D descriptions of road spaces. Like ASAM OpenDRIVE, CityGML is a globally used data format that standardizes the modelling, storage and exchange of semantic 3D city models for use in the context of urban simulations and analyses. With this foundation in place, Virtual City Systems was able to develop a strategy for integrating the street space models of Ingolstadt into their CityGML-based city model based on the high quality of data captured by project partners, like 3D Mapping Solutions and the surveying authorities. This forms the ideal basis for mobility applications in the specific urban environment.
“We chose an ASAM-based solution because we believe in globally accepted open standards as key driver for innovation in a quickly developing digital world,” Trometer says. “For us as company with a strong focus on GIS, we appreciated OpenDRIVE as a globally accepted and open Standard for our own developments to build on. Beyond this, the ASAM organization under the lead of Klaus Estenfeld is a highly professional, efficient, and pleasant cooperative partner.”
This cooperation among the project partners and stakeholders, both within the automotive industry and in the wider urban Simulation domain, was crucial for the success of the project, which is now entering its final phase. The detailed road space model according to the ASAM OpenDRIVE data format can now be visualized in its urban context through a web-based and interactive client, which in turn supports further analyses such as view shed analyses and the animation of traffic simulations.
Benefits of integrated data standards are far-reaching
One of the other major benefits of integrating the ASAM OpenDRIVE and CityGML standardized data formats is the added ability to enhance Smart City applications in both directions: Information from the city about infrastructure can directly support mobility optimization and safety measures, and information from vehicles and roadways can support city applications like monitoring weather conditions and traffic delays in hyper-specific detail. This interconnectivity improves the security for Ingolstadt residents, particularly as autonomous vehicles are still a new safety consideration for pedestrians and drivers, and it also has the potential to support a more robust Digital Twin that will improve the overall quality of life and civil participation, not to mention the time and money saved for countless city projects.
Aside from these possibilities that arise from integration of street space models and 3D city models, there are also a lot of automotive applications that become feasible. Testing vehicles, sensors and systems in an accurate virtual environment can validate models and results and push the envelope forward in automotive simulations in general.