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Reliability and the Self-Driving Car

Reliability and the Self-Driving Car

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The race to launch a commercially available self-driving car was front and center at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. I took more than one ride in a self-driving vehicle and came out unscathed and usually awed by the current state of affairs. We are still a long way from a true self-driving car, but the gains that have been made in the last couple of years have been extremely impressive.

One area that is often left to the future is safety and reliability. Just getting things to work is a challenge. Most developers working in this area are addressing these issues, but they often do not talk about them much. The demo I had from Renesas did.

Renesas has worked with a number of partners—including Blackberry with its automotive software, the QNX RTOS. The latest demo is built around multiple Renesas’ R-Car starter kits that can meet the ASIL-B standard while each pair was managed by a Renesas RH850 that can meet ASIL-D. This should allow the combined system to meet ASIL-D requirements.

The particular demo utilized a triple, software-redundant configuration where three of four R-Car chips were used. The system would detect when one of the three was out of synch allowing it to be isolated with the other two continuing to operate.

Another part of the demo highlighted monitoring of network communications. It could identify some types of attacks and then isolate the portion of the network under attack.

A couple of examples were demonstrated while I was in the car. One part of the demo had the car pull over in a designated spot when the system detected a simulated error that reduced the system to a minimal safe configuration. A commercial solution would need to do much more but it will need to have the same type of checking and redundancy that was demonstrated by Renesas and Blackberry QNX.

The wave of self-driving technology is unstoppable at this point (see “Self-Driving Cars Are Coming Whether You Like It or Not” on We are not even close to the first self-driving car that will operate at large under most driving conditions and it is going to take a lot more technology, redundancy, and good design to make it happen.


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