Sensor Sensibility: A Common Sense Method to Add Camera, Radar, Lidar and More to Autonomous Vehicles

Plug-in modules on DriveWorks SDK make it easy to test different configurations using DRIVE AGX platform.
by Glenn Schuster

When it comes to autonomous vehicle sensor suites, one size does not fit all.

From Level 2+ automated driving to fully autonomous robotaxis, and from cars to shuttles to trucks, the wide range of autonomous vehicle types requires a variety of different sensors to safely operate. These can include different sensor types and models from a number of different manufacturers.

That’s why NVIDIA built DRIVE AGX as an open platform to seamlessly incorporate new sensors for more efficient autonomous driving development.

Sensors are a key component to making a vehicle driverless. Cameras, radar and lidar enable an autonomous vehicle to visualize its surroundings, detect objects and implement interior features such as driver monitoring and customized passenger experiences.

Typically, autonomous driving developers tailor algorithms to a specific sensor suite. This means any time a new sensor is added or the configuration changes, developers must rewrite the software.

DRIVE AGX helps speed up this development with the DriveWorks sensor abstraction layer (SAL), which allows developers to change or add sensors without having to make major software changes.

Keep on Plug-in

The DriveWorks software development kit (SDK) runs on the DRIVE AGX AI supercomputer and, with the addition of the DriveWorks SAL, can enable plug-ins for sensors that aren’t already incorporated on the platform.

The plug-ins consist of a few lines of code that translate the new sensor’s data into the DriveWorks generalized data structures.

For example, an algorithm running on the DRIVE AGX platform will be able to use point cloud data from a variety of different lidar sensors — which use lasers to sense the environment and help build a 3D understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings — without having to rewrite the software.

To integrate new sensors into the DriveWorks SDK and DRIVE AGX platform, developers only need to implement a few functions to create a plug-in. However, there is flexibility to make the plug-in as complex as needed. Once the sensors are integrated with DriveWorks, developers have all the optimized algorithms and tools right at their fingertips.

A Growing Ecosystem

Because the DRIVE AGX platform is open, a wide ecosystem of automakers, suppliers, software startups, mapmakers, trucking companies and even sensor manufacturers can leverage it for flexible and efficient autonomous vehicle development.

To learn more about integrating new sensors into the DriveWorks SDK, watch our dedicated webinar, and read more about DRIVE AGX.