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SAE INTERNATIONAL’S Automotive Engineering is published ten times a year, with reports on advances in automotive engineering around the world. I worked as associate engineering editor there back in the mid 1970s and have been an SAE Member ever since.

The September 2018 issue of Automotive Engineering has a focus on “Engineers at the Crossroads,” detailing SAE’s involvement in preparing working and student engineers to succeed in the coming days of automated/connected vehicles. Several articles caught my eye, including one updating the important aspect of standardization and nomenclature for these vehicles.

J3016 For Consumers. SAE Standard J3016, Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems, is generally accepted as identifying levels and names for driving automation. See also “AAAS Looks at Autonomous Cars” here at SimanaitisSays.

In particular, six levels of automotive autonomy are defined, ranging from none whatsoever through full control of the car. To help consumers understand the subtleties of this proposed transition, SAE International has devised a graphic for J3016.

Image from Automotive Engineering, September 2018.

As already discussed here at SimanaitisSays, I find Level 3 the most contentious. It gives the car complete autonomy—but ”with human fallback, driver must respond promptly when alerted.”

Promptly? Now you tell one.

In any case, SAE International is performing an important role in educating us all to understand just how and when vehicle autonomy evolves.

TOPS Computers to the Fore. In another article in Automotive Engineering, September 2018, Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Navigant Research, offers a fascinating analysis of an automated vehicle’s computer requirements. In particular, he writes, “Many trillions of operations per second will be needed to achieve functional safety in AVs.”

Back in 2007, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, set an Urban Challenge for automated vehicles. Abuelsamid describes a Chevrolet Tahoe, just a little more than a decade ago, as crammed with state-of-the-art computing: “Because of the custom setup, it’s hard to ascertain what the total computing capability of that system was.” Based on the power of each of its ten processors, Abuelsamid calculates, “Theoretically, a rack of ten would crunch through 1.8 billion operations per second.”

“In the intervening years,” Abuelsamid notes, “there has been a marked shift in the way high performance computing is handled. Computer scientists increasingly utilize highly parallel processors originally designed for video game graphics to run deep neural networks.”

He cites that today “Nvidia’s Drive Xavier system-on-a-chip is a single piece of silicon that integrates multiple different processor architectures to achieve the redundancy that driverless vehicles will need for safe real-world operation. Xavier can crunch 30 trillion operations per second (TOPS).”

The Xavier’s 30 TOPS is several orders of magnitude greater than the power crammed into that 2007 DARPA Tahoe—“on a board the size of two smartphones side by side.”

Abuelsamid also notes, “Mobileye’s new EyeQ5 chips are expected to begin shipping in sample quantities to automakers in 2019. Intel plans to use a pair of EyeQ5 chips along with a custom Atom CPU to achieve 48 TOPS.”

He concludes, “When a human is no longer expected to supervise and take over when technology fails, cars will need backup ‘virtual drivers’ that can bring passengers to a safe place when the inevitable goes wrong.”

Lindsay Brooke is the editor-in-chief of Automotive Engineering. He’s a fellow journalist whose forthright commentary has been shared here at SimanaitisSays: An Automotive Engineering editorial titled “EVs Lack a Robust Charging Grid” evolved when Lindsay’s community was hit with a local, but significant, electric power failure. In another Automotive Engineering article, he described “teardown-and-analysis,” wherein competitive products are studied through reverse engineering.

Lindsay Brooke, editor-in-chief, Automotive Engineering.

And in the September 2018 Automotive Engineering discussed here, Lindsay came up with a great summary of Chrysler’s corporate history, 1998–2007 and 2007–2009: “… the ‘merger of equals’ Daimler anschluss and the Cerberus mugging.”

I wish I had said that. Indeed, someday I probably will. With proper credit, of course, to SAE’s Lindsay Brooke. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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