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NDS and ADASIS pave the way for autonomous driving

10. October 2019

Automated vehicles have the potential to greatly increase safety and efficiency on the road. But to do so, they need to be able to handle the complex surrounding environment, difficult road conditions or hazards – in short, they need to know what’s ahead of them. One way to gather this information is through in-car sensors, but their range is limited. And if there’s a traffic jam two miles away, why not start decelerating slowly to safe fuel and prevent accidents? For this, the vehicle needs high-definition and up-to-date map information about the road ahead, including highly accurate digitization of road furniture and of lanes, guard rails, traffic signs, intersections and more.

At the first public NDS conference this summer, NDS Association member Elektrobit (EB) presented how the NDS and ADASIS standards jointly enable up-to-date map data to be provided to ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and automated driving functions. Here is how the two standards work hand-in-hand.

The evolution of automotive map requirements

In the past, map data was mainly used for navigation purposes. Traffic data was available via TMC. Maps were updated annually and positioning was done by the global navigation satellite system. Today, traffic data is available online and map updates are more frequent and more advanced. Accurate positioning enables in-vehicle systems to use ADAS attributes such as gradient and road curvature. In the near future, high-definition maps containing highly precise information about the lanes and objects ahead as well as up-to-date information about the road furniture will enable reliable automated driving functions.

Why do we need HD maps anyway?

Maps that are built for self-driving purposes are usually called high-definition maps. These maps specifically have precision at centimeter-level and include additional elements like road furniture or point clouds to provide data for localization. This information enables precise positioning and a planning beyond sensor visibility. Nowadays, widespread coverage is available across Europe, America and parts of Asia through different map suppliers like NDS Association members HERE, NavInfo, and TomTom. It’s crucial to keep the map data layers consistent to ensure different driving applications work together seamlessly.

Versatile map attributes managed in one standard: NDS

The Navigation Data Standard (NDS) is a format for automotive-grade navigation databases, which is being jointly developed by automotive OEMs, map data providers, navigation device and software application providers. It seeks to develop a standardized map database format that allows the exchange of navigation data between different systems. NDS separates navigation software from navigation data, therefore enhancing flexibility for creating various navigation products for end users by offering a different set of information depending on the final application requirements. In addition to this interoperability, NDS databases support incremental updates, compactness, and protection against illegal use.

NDS-and-ADASIS

NDS enables the provision of the map data to the vehicle with two different approaches: Firstly, as an onboard map, which is compiled and stored locally. Secondly, as an online map that is cached in the vehicle via data access from an NDS backend, which allows to receive the most up-to-date map information.

Generating an HD e-horizon of the road ahead

With up-to-date maps available in the vehicle, how can driving applications benefit from information stored in these NDS-formatted maps? An HD e-horizon provides other vehicle ECUs a continuous forecast of the upcoming road network by using optimized transmission protocols. It includes positioning and localization information as well as static and dynamic road information. The whole HD vehicle horizon consists of a provider, a reconstructor, and an ADAS application part. The provider software makes the most recent map information available whereas the reconstructor reassembles and efficiently stores the relevant HD horizon data. This way, the ADAS application receives up-to-date map data in the right format: road furniture, road geometry, and other information is distributed over the on-board bus of the vehicle to ECUs to be used in driving applications or to complement sensor data. This is where the ADASIS protocol comes into play. ADASIS, short for Advanced Driver Assistant Systems Interface Specification, is an established standard for map data distribution within E/E systems. The current scope of the ADASIS consortium is to specify and release a standard to transmit precise data for automated driving functions.

Bringing map data to vehicle ECUs: the ADASIS specification

ADASIS is an open group with the goal to define a standardized data exchange protocol between map database, ADAS and automated driving applications. The ADASIS specification enables these applications to access data stored in the map data sources, build predictive data, based on map and position, and improve road safety, reduce emissions and provide higher driving comfort. In 2012, with the ADASIS version 2 specification, first applications like Predictive Powertrain Control in trucks were brought to market. ADASIS v2 offers meter-level accuracy, up to 8 kilometers foresight, and objects were placed on the road center. From 2014 onwards, the ADASIS Forum focused on version 3 as an enabler of automated driving. ADASIS v3 offers centimeter-level accuracy, theoretically 43.000 kilometers of foresight, lane model with objects placed on the lane center and the inclusion of road furniture objects. These are prerequisites to serve the best possible information for automated driving functions. In 2019, NDS Association member EB provided the first reference implementation of ADASIS v3 to the forum. The first car on the road with an ADASIS v3 HD e-horizon is expected in 2020.

Further steps on the road to automated driving with NDS and ADASIS

Versatile and high amounts of map data are kept under control by making use of the NDS standard. The ADASIS v2 protocol fits to the embedded NDS map and is greatly adding to driving comfort, efficiency, and enhancing ADAS applications. The NDS backend is providing the most up-to-date map data and together with the ADASIS v3 protocol it enables automated driving applications. Projects with various automotive companies show that ADASIS v3 is not replacing the ADASIS v2 standard – it rather offers new capabilities. NDS and ADASIS v3 are a perfect team for automated and future autonomous driving functions.

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