Unmanned Systems Technology 036

6 Mission-critical info for UST professionals Platform one Oxbotica has developed a suite of modular software with low computing power requirements for localisation and perception in autonomous ground vehicles (writes Nick Flaherty). The software is self-contained, requires no external infrastructure or third- party maps, works in fully GPS-denied environments and is fully integrated with a cloud management service. “We use the same software in all domains, from road to mine to forest – it’s the same cost, no external maps, no GPS,” said Paul Newman, CTO of Oxbotica. “That gives every user the same learning opportunity. Learning from a mine for example helps with developing on-road shuttles. We get to see the usage data to improve the safety. “We never set out to build a company that makes robotaxis or that provides the whole autonomy system as a monolithic chunk,” he added. Instead the software is designed so that different sensors can be used depending on the application. Newman pointed to using radar rather than cameras in UGVs in shipping ports as an example. The key to the software’s development is a digital simulation approach for training and validating it. “We are able to take real street data and real mining data and put it in the simulator, so in that sense I would not say it’s a digital twin, as the input is real data,” he said. “We import satellite imagery into the simulator, run autonomy in the loop and put all kinds of things in there, including synthesising images and laser point clouds.” The coding architecture allows an idea to be implemented and fully tested using an automated verification tool. “We can update our main line of code 20 to 30 times a day,” Newman said. “We don’t use humans; we measure ‘road to code’ and ‘code to road’. By taking an idea through coding to deployment on the road, we are down to 19 hours. We are coding around the world, and the US and Asia will soon be on the same code base.” The company uses a model where it charges by the unit of software it ships to a vehicle on an annual basis. “In the not-too- distant future we will look at how to deliver the technology per tonne, per mile or per passenger, as long as it is a good measure of the business case,” Newman said. “We spent a lot of time and energy going low energy,” he added. “An entire stack at 50 mph is only 380 W. Slower stacks for offroad applications are mere tens of Watts.” Ground vehicles Low-power localisation February/March 2021 | Unmanned Systems Technology Oxbotica’s autonomous software, which is being used in mines and elsewhere, does not rely on navigation data