Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

28 Dossier | Applied EV Blanc Robot UGV controls, ready to take over in case of an emergency?” he muses. Applied EV estimates that about 50% of vehicle costs revolve around the drivercockpit environment, from crash safety systems such as airbags and seatbelts to visibility items, like windshield glazings and mirrors, human machine interface (HMI) devices and comfort infrastructure. By removing the driver from its platform design and thus eliminating the need for all those types of components, Applied EV believes it has created the ideal blank slate for multipurpose, software-defined mobility applications; hence its name, the Blanc Robot. The Blanc Robot is a 4WD, fourwheel-steering, battery-electric vehicle platform, constructed around the company’s Digital Backbone as its controller, thereby creating a system provident of 80-90% of the development work needed for a highly specialised autonomous road vehicle, offering a standard development environment for OEMs to create their own apps and features. “The true value of an autonomous vehicle is from a platform specifically lacking a driver cabin – economically and ergonomically,” Broadbent says. “We knew we could create a self-driving software-defined vehicle with the necessary functional safety ratings and open architecture required to offer ASIL-D safety-rated features and applications, such as X-by-Wire driving, Level 3 ADAS support, or Level 4 or Level 5 Autonomy. “With the Blanc Robot, we have a blank slate – pardon the pun – upon which we can build any body structure for any given application. We developed the first Blanc Robot in mid-2018, and rapidly developed very strong bonds with autonomous and automotive partners around the world, who understood what we wanted to do: start the process of showing the true value of autonomous vehicles to the world.” Standards of safety The decision to remove the driver’s cabin from the Blanc Robot brought with it the realisation that without a driver, there was no safety fallback for Applied EV’s controller, and the Digital Backbone had to manage every aspect of the vehicle’s control and management functions entirely on software, without making a mistake. This introduced new rounds of r&d for the Digital Backbone, as Broadbent recounts: “From early on, we knew we’d need significant layers of redundancy that were ‘always active’ and immune to total fault. We took to calling it the ‘Noah’s Ark strategy’ because we needed two of everything. Soon, we had two battery packs, two motors for steering, two for braking and four for traction.” In addition, the second edition of the ISO 26262 standard was published in December 2018, having been expanded to cover the functional safety of electric and electronic systems in not only passenger vehicles but all road vehicles, except mopeds. This also led to the ‘ASIL’ definitions of safety requirements necessary for compliance with ISO 26262, from A to D (ASIL-D being the highest level of integrity requirements). “We started to get involved with how ISO 26262 was being constructed, which defined how we developed as a business. ISO 26262 isn’t like ISO 9000, where a couple of suits come in with clipboards and audit your business for a week,” Broadbent says. “It relies on your entire culture being built around safety. Even the biggest OEMs can’t fast-track their way to functionally safe, softwaredefined vehicles with cash. For an ISO 26262-compliant autonomous solution, you can’t have a single failure mode, or the vehicle fails and you have to recall every vehicle you’ve ever sold.” Applied EV has henceforth worked to establish safety in its culture, organisation and functional safety processes, which can be adapted as needed as the certification project for the Blanc Robot proceeds. Growing a Backbone The Digital Backbone, now in its sixth generation, as of writing, has been updated in multiple incremental versions or generations (each with sub-versions) to date. “Looking back, the fifth version was an especially significant moment for us, as it was embedded in the Blanc Robot that went to the UK to do the first-ever trial of an autonomous, cabinless vehicle with Oxa [then known as Oxbotica],” Broadbent recalls. “Based on learnings between 2016 and 2018, we started in 2019 with a clean sheet and designed a software-based control system to accelerate commercialisation of autonomous applications, compliant with ISO 26262.” April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology In the Digital Backbone central control unit, four printed circuit board assemblies like this one integrate the processors, interfaces and other electronics for intelligently managing almost any UGV