Connecting Virtual and Physical Tests in Autonomous Vehicles


Have you heard the good news? Earlier this month, we had the honor to announce the acquisition of our long-time partner monoDrive, a leader in ultra-high fidelity simulation software for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicle development. We interviewed Chad Chesney, vice president and general manager of the NI transportation business unit, and Celite Milbrandt, CEO of monoDrive to get more insight on why this new move is the right direction for both NI and monoDrive and what this change may mean for our customers.

NI and monoDrive have been partnered for quite some time already. Why is now the perfect moment to join forces in a new way?

Chad: Our initial partnership with monoDrive provided NI with a better opportunity to understand the ADAS and autonomous driving simulation market, especially as it has quickly evolved. Through learning about our partner and the broader market, we realized that bringing monoDrive directly into NI strengthened and accelerated our capabilities to serve our customers’ needs by providing them with a more complete validation workflow and better test coverage.

How do monoDrive and NI's expertise complement each other?

Celite: monoDrive provides powerful virtual environments capable of modeling dozens of high-fidelity sensors in real-time for cloud-based simulation including Software-in-the-loop (SIL) and Hardware-in the-loop (HIL). Furthermore, we also generate digital twins of recorded drives, which enables the user to run thousands of permutations of scenarios from just a single recording.

Chad: NI provides the necessary hardware systems including Input/Output (I/O) such as ADAS sensors and Fusion electric control units (ECUs) to interface with the real, physical world. Moreover, we provide an open and extensible software toolchain to implement data logging, data replay, HIL and other XIL type applications. With the onboarding of monoDrive, we now can combine the strength of both companies, integrate our technology and expertise even tighter, and enable our joint customers with streamlined systems to plug into their verification and validation (V&V) strategy. Our customers can innovate even faster, while maintaining  the same expectations for high quality performance.


What are you most excited to see as the NI and monoDrive teams combine?

Chad: So far, I’m incredibly impressed with the caliber of the monoDrive team and the depth of their experience in technology and automotive requirements. What I’m most excited about going forward is all of the collaboration opportunities on the horizon and the impact we can make beyond simulation software in all areas of ADAS and autonomous driving test.

Celite: I am looking forward to taking advantage of NI’s global automotive experience across the supply chain to make our products better. We hope to provide our solutions to a larger base of customers, and in turn, help our customers make software safer and faster.


What should our customers expect from both NI and monoDrive after this merger?

Celite: First and foremost, we want to continue to provide the great support and customer experience that monoDrive already delivers and ensure that we do not disrupt any existing engagement. 

Chad: Over time, you can expect that our tools will integrate closely to create a seamless workflow, from data recording to digital twin creation to simulation and HIL. Customers will profit from this integration of subject matter expertise and technology and will be able to find the best possible solution for each puzzle piece of the ADAS and autonomous driving workflow.


How do you and your teams value failure?

Chad: We celebrate those who seek out failure because they, above all other people, know that the only way to trust if something works is to know all the ways it will not. A failure identified in simulation, in the lab, or on the test floor is an accident avoided. We seek to understand and eliminate failure.

Celite: To Chad’s point, we need to fully understand what failure looks like, because we are also stressing systems and software to handle fault. We want to find even more fail-operational use cases, not just fail-safe faults.


What value does failure add when developing and innovating ADAS technology?

Celite: The challenge in ADAS and autonomous vehicle testing is that we still don’t know when testing is enough. We are literally testing against infinite scenarios. Therefore, failure can arise quickly and everywhere. While this may make us feel uneasy initially, it provides a tremendous opportunity for us to learn from failures and find smarter solutions. We need to fail fast and early because once a car is out on the road, the cost of failure is gigantic, and in the case of active safety in ADAS, lives are clearly at risk. Testing early through simulation and more testing through parallel instances in the cloud plays a critical role in all of this. Through the combination of virtual and physical test strategies, we can enhance ADAS and autonomous driving technology together with OEMs and suppliers and truly improve through failure.


How will this acquisition help NI continue to serve customers in the ADAS market?

Chad: Through this acquisition, we are adding a nimble startup to the NI family that can innovate fast, as its people simultaneously bring deep application knowledge in sensor modelling and autonomous driving simulation to our current solutions. Overall, this will help us integrate simulation technology more efficiently into NI systems as we continue to provide an open software toolchain, all while keeping the needs of the customer front and center.


How will this acquisition help monoDrive continue to develop and innovate ADAS software in the automotive market?

Celite: As mentioned before, NI is something like a big brother to us, offering years of experience in Test and Measurement as well as the automotive market. We can develop faster and further build on the roots of the open technology platform, the smart people behind it, and the vast ecosystem of integration partners including cloud and IT experts.

Last but certainly not least, since we are an official part of NI now, we can serve multi-national automotive players given NI’s global workforce and services capabilities. With this new merger, we are eager to forge even stronger relationships with our current and future customers across the globe. 

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