Open software promises speedy self-driving car development

Hoping to create a standard software architecture for self-driving vehicle development, Elektrobit releases Robinos, giving engineers a software framework to integrate sensor and control systems.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Elektrobit traffic diagram
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Elektrobit traffic diagram

In a video detailing the benefits of self-driving cars, Elektrobit touts reduced traffic congestion.


Elektrobit, a division of automotive supplier Continental, announced the release of Robinos, an open software architecture that could become the standard for self-driving cars. Along with the open architecture, dubbed Open Robinos, Elektrobit will also offer EB Robinos, its own branded version of the architecture with prewritten software modules to process sensor input and make vehicle control decisions.

Automakers and other companies are developing cars capable of driving themselves, and some have projected 2020 as the first year for production self-driving vehicles. Self-driving development cars typically employ an array of sensors, including laser and radar, to "see" the world around them, and a computer to process the input and send signals to control steering, throttle and braking.

The Robinos architecture specifies a sensor layer, with modules to process GPS, radar and laser inputs, a decision-making layer, and the final vehicle control layer. An error-checking block underlies these layers.

Elektrobit notes that the architecture is designed to handle SAE Level 5 autonomy, which means a fully self-driving car.

Bjorn Geisler, Elektrobit's head of driver assistance, said that automakers were "reinventing the wheel" with their self-driving car projects, each building their own software architecture and keeping it secret. He said that "Open Robinos will speed development of self-driving cars."

Open Robinos will be released under a Creative Commons license.

For EB Robinos, Elektrobit will have a full set of code blocks written and available by the end of the year. Geisler said that the company has already been testing the software in the real world, accumulating over 1,500 miles on highways.

Elektrobit also developed an automated valet parking system with Robinos, where drivers can exit their cars and send them off to find parking in a sensor-equipped garage.

Elektrobit is making Robinos available on its own website.