Intelligent, self-aware and situationally aware products capable of autonomous or semi-autonomous operation—reliably and without fail, under every possible set of conditions and circumstances—is fast becoming a, if not indeed the, key competitive mandate for virtually every discrete manufacturing industry today.
A powerful suite of engineering modeling and simulation technologies to help fulfill that mandate will now become available from MSC Software. A unit of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, MSC just announced an agreement to acquire VIRES Simulationstechnologie GmbH, recognized and respected as a leading provider of a software toolchain that supports the development, testing and validation of automated driving, driver assistance and active safety systems.
VIRES’s prestigious customer list includes prominent automotive OEMs and suppliers, as well as more recent entrants into the automotive business and elite universities worldwide. VIRES’s products are notable for the ease with which they let users build simulation environments, and for their robustness and performance. The company also provides its software to firms that simulate railway and aircraft performance.
MSC’s Gallello: “Fits perfectly into our overall strategy of connecting the off-line, real-time, big-data, and analytics technology chain”
“We are just in the very early days of testing with confidence vehicles that need to reach ‘Level 5’ autonomy,” observed MSC Software president and CEO Dominic Gallello. “There are still many challenges to be solved, much technology to be invented, and many more orders of magnitude of simulations to be performed than that what is currently being done today. VIRES’s outstanding environmental simulation technology fits perfectly into our overall strategy of connecting the off-line, real-time, big-data, and analytics technology chain. With this acquisition, we will enable vehicles that are not only safe but that also retain the special driving characteristics of their brands.”
“Our strategic direction is well aligned with MSC’s vision for autonomous vehicle simulation,” said VIRES Managing Director Marius Dupuis. MSC provides the global footprint that we need to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for our products and services.”
VIRES is a main contributor to the industrial consortia behind interoperability standards including OpenScenario, OpenDrive and OpenCRG, something that will continue unchanged under MSC’s ownership.
Hexagon’s Rollén: “Strengthens our CAE platform with an industry-proven solution” and “supports our overall autonomous X vision”
VIRES’s “proven simulation solutions have been recognized for their robustness, performance and ease of building simulation environments for over 20 years,” MSC Software parent company Hexagon observes. “The VIRES acquisition strengthens our CAE [simulation] platform with an industry-proven solution,” Hexagon president and CEO Ola Rollén remarked. “It also supports our overall autonomous X vision—to deliver a software-driven, intelligent ecosystem that leverages our expertise in 3D mapping and other essential sensor technologies to make safe, autonomous vehicles a reality.”
Hexagon is a global provider of information technology solutions whose core mission is to “drive productivity and quality across geospatial and industrial landscapes.” Its solutions “integrate sensors, software, domain knowledge and customer workflows into intelligent information ecosystems that deliver actionable information,” in the company’s words.
Just as MSC Software holds a long, distinguished track record of supremely successful acquisitions and integrations throughout its history, so too has Hexagon shown itself an impeccable parent and steward to the many world-leading engineering technology brands it has acquired, nurtured and integrated across many years—most recently MSC, and before that Browne & Sharpe, Cognitens, Erdas, Forming Technologies, Intergraph PPM, Leica Geosystems, Leitz, Romer, Z/I Imaging and numerous others.
Who VIRES is
Founded by three aerospace engineers, VIRES Simulationstechnologie GmbH for over 20 years has been providing simulation solutions for the automotive, railroad and aerospace industries. Its core software product, the highly modular VIRES Virtual Test Drive, automates development and testing of advanced driver assistance and active safety systems, all in support of solutions for automated driving.
“Together with our worldwide customer base,” the company says, “we shape the future of mobility by providing development tools for autonomous driving technology.” VIRES has long been a key force in development and acceptance of open standards for automotive simulation technology that enables data exchange and comparison of results. “By using the latest technologies combined with modular design and open interfaces of our software, we offer the perfect development environment.”
VIRES Virtual Test Drive (VTD)
The company’s core product, VIRES Virtual Test Drive (VTD), supports design of traffic networks, traffic and scenario simulation, real-time visualization, and customization. As a key contributor to the industrial consortia responsible for interoperability standards in this area—the company terms itself “a driving force in automotive simulator technology”—VIRES has of course ensured its software is compatible with a wide range of additional, complimentary tools and services.
A complete toolset for driving simulation applications, VTD is a toolkit for creation, configuration, presentation and evaluation of virtual environments for road, rail and aerospace simulations. It is used for the development of ADAS and automated driving systems, as well as serving as the core technology for operator training simulators. It covers the end-to-end workflows involved, from generation of 3D content, through simulation of complex traffic scenarios, and finally to the simulation of either digitally modeled or physically driven sensors. It is used in SiL, DiL, ViL and HiL applications, and can also be applied to co-simulations with customers’ third-party or internally developed applications. With its open and modular design, it can be easily interfaced and integrated with other digital tools.
Creation of virtual worlds
VIRES’s interactive Road Network Editor (ROD) supports design of road and rail networks in full detail with unlimited numbers of lanes, complex intersections, comprehensive signs and signaling. It links and exports logic and graphical data consistently from a single source.
Virtual worlds can be designed from scratch or compiled from existing database tiles. Various import and export formats as well as large libraries of 3D models and country-specific signs/signals are provided to accelerate the design process.
All logical data is exported in compliance with the OpenDRIVE format. OpenCRG data can be linked to a database. The graphics data export process can be customized for a particular user organization’s needs.
Configuration of virtual worlds
Dynamic content is defined using an interactive scenario editor that visualizes the underlying OpenDRIVE database, and lets the user specify traffic as individual objects and as autonomous swarms around key entities. Both left- and right-hand driving environments are supported. A large library of vehicles, pedestrians and driver properties is available, and can be easily customized. With a few mouse clicks, the user can define paths for individual entities, configure signal control programs, place objects and add events from a large set of predefined actions.
Real-time monitoring and command injection is supported during the simulation phase. Native support for OpenSCENARIO is scheduled for mid-2017.
Simulations of virtual worlds
No matter what environment the user is running in (XiL), what the project’s time base looks like (real-time or non-real-time) or which additional components are involved (co-simulations), VTD will seamlessly adapt. At any time the user can take full control over the execution of the simulation, specify varying time steps, and consume object, image and sensor data via a wide range of interfaces (network, shared memory and the like). Any number of externally computed entities may be injected, and multiple installations may run either in parallel or interconnected. VTD can be operated from a single computer up to a full-scale HPC environment.
Customization of virtual worlds
VTD is an out-of-the-box solution but “doesn’t stick to this box,” VIRES says, and is user-customizable on various levels. The company provides SDKs (software development kits) together with ready-to-go templates for sensor simulation (both object-list-based and physics-based), dynamics simulation and image generation. The software’s open interfaces for run-time data and simulation control are designed to make it easy to integrate VTD into any technology environment. VTD runs under Linux and, through its extensive use of network interfaces, is not only modular but also highly scalable.