TDK Launches AV Positioning Software Coursa Drive

At this week’s CES expo in Las Vegas, Japanese electronics giant TDK announced that it would launch Coursa Drive, an inertial-aided vehicle positioning software framework aimed at autonomous vehicle software developers.

Coursa Drive’s inertial navigation system (INS) calibrates input from either a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) or from perception-based systems such as cameras and Lidar, used in combination with high-definition maps.

For improved system performance, Coursa Drive can also provide decimeter position precision (within four inches) for short periods of time (60 seconds) if the GNSS or perception systems are unavailable.

“To guarantee a level of accuracy at all times is a system-level question — no single sensor can do this at the vehicle level,” TDK’s automotive product marketing senior director, Stefano Zanella, wrote in an email to TU-Automotive. “Let’s say you’re in a tunnel. GPS systems can’t tell you where you are. You need something else, like an inertial measurement unit (IMU)”.

He added that it is the combination of all sensors in the car that guarantees a standard level of accuracy.

In real time, Coursa Drive provides high-rate, 100 Hertz (Hz) delta positions and orientation to the AV system, complementing the lower-rate position references from GNSS and perception systems.

Zanella explained challenges to developing ever better sensors include accuracy at a wide range of temperatures and noise avoidance.

“We’re always looking at how to absorb board design and software complexity into sensors that are then simple to design with,” he wrote. “We also provide drivers and the necessary support.”

For example, the interchangeability of TDK sensors makes the design process simple because with one hardware/software design, different sensors can be used to better fit the accuracy/cost trade-off of each design.

In addition, Coursa Drive is platform agnostic and can operate on Cortex-M4F-class microcontrollers, or higher, and supports most dual-frequency GNSS receivers.

Zanella added that the next big technological leap to enable autonomous cars is to produce low-cost sensors with equal or better performance and functionality to ones currently costing thousands of dollars.

With the advent of autonomous driving, ISO 26262 requirements — an international standard for functional safety — are making their way into navigation chips.

“Producing high-accuracy devices that comply [with] ISO 26262 at the right cost point will support volume production, which is necessary for autonomous vehicles to really take off, ” he noted.

TDK also announced a line of automotive high-accuracy devices from its subsidiary InvenSense, including the IAM-20680 and IAM-20680HP, which are designed into the Coursa Drive software platform.

With operating range of negative 40 Fahrenheit to 185 Fahrenheit, the IAM-20680 features 16-bit accelerometers and 16-bit gyroscopes, while the high-performance edition can function in temperatures up to 225 Fahrenheit and offers high gyroscope and offset thermal stability.

Zanella noted cars go into many environments, so their sensors must function in any conditions, and a vehicle’s navigation system can use the output of the devices to improve estimate of the position, direction, and speed of a vehicle when the satellite signal is deteriorated or non-existent.

“We need to think about how to make sensors that will still work, even in unlikely scenarios, like if a car drives into a river,” he said. “When you make products like these, you have to imagine that anything possible will happen.”

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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