BMW to Equip Vehicles With Tactical Sensing Software in 2021 With a New Partnership

BMW to Equip Vehicles With Tactical Sensing Software in 2021 With a New Partnership

Author: Eric Walz   

German automaker BMW has signed a commercial agreement with Israel-based tactile data and sensing company Tactile Mobility. As part of the partnership, BMW will equip its vehicles with software technology from Tactical Mobility beginning in 2021.

BMW's collaboration with Tactical Mobility will equip future BMW vehicles with the ability to analyze the road surface under the tires, enabling accurate detection of real-time road conditions. In addition, the data can support adaptive suspension management functions based on current or conditions to enhance safety or performance.

The collaboration is one of the first commercial integrations of tactile sensing technology and data by a major automaker. 

Tactical Mobility's VehicleDNA software provides a representation of each vehicle's systems, including suspensions, powertrain, braking efficiency, tire health, and more, in real-time. 

The company's platform consists of two advanced software modules, including in-vehicle embedded software and a cloud module, which can be provided as standalone solutions or combined together to reinforce each other, the company said.

The embedded software suite utilizes the vehicles' built-in, non-visual sensors, such as wheel speed, steering angle and RPMs, to collect and analyze data about vehicle/road dynamics, such as detecting slippery road conditions on a rainy day. The sensor data includes such attributes such as available grip level, which signals a particular vehicle's traction limits. 

Tactical Mobility's embedded module is installed in a vehicle's electronic control unit (ECU), where it runs proprietary algorithms and AI to generate real-time insights about the vehicle-road dynamics based on raw data ingested from multiple vehicle sensors. Whereas the cloud module is used for processing the data collected from the vehicle using cloud-based machine learning and big data analysis.

The company's software can also be embedded in an aftermarket device that's connected to the vehicle's or OBD diagnostic port, where it can also collect real-time data from the vehicle's CANBus network.

Once the sensor data is uploaded to the cloud and analyzed, it's fed back to the vehicle's computers, so the vehicle's on-board systems can better optimize driving decisions in real-time using the insights pulled from the raw data.

Some examples of how this data can be used for safer driving are shortening the braking distance or optimizing a vehicle's adaptive cruise control on a particular stretch of road. For BMW vehicles with adaptive suspension, wheel speed data can be used to fine tune the suspension settings in areas where there might be momentarily loss of grip from one of the wheels. For example, on a twisty mountain road. 

Tactile Mobility's secondary SurfaceDNA data analytics platform can also be used by mapping companies. The SurfaceDNA is essentially a bundle of mapping layers that offers insights into current road conditions based on the data collected from a vehicle. 

The platform generates a constantly updated crowd-sourced map of global road conditions that mapping companies can utilize for updating their dynamic HD maps.

In the future where connected vehicles can commute with each other about the current road conditions, the collected and analyzed SurfaceDNA dataset can be shared via the cloud with nearby vehicles. The data offers information about roadway grades, banking, curvature, as well as any road hazards, including bumps, cracks or potholes. 

SurfaceDNA can also help a vehicle's advanced driver assist system (ADAS) to better react to hazardous stretches of road by notifying the vehicle before the driver approaches about the upcoming hazards.

The integration of Tactile Mobility's software into BMW's software stack is an indication that tactile sensing data shows promise for the automotive industry, including for connected vehicles.

"We are thrilled to partner with the BMW Group to equip their smart and future automated vehicles with the sense of "touch" and show the commercial viability of tactile sensing technology," said Boaz Mizrachi, Tactile Mobility's Co-founder and CTO.

The Partnership Began at BMW's Startup Garage

The cooperation between the BMW Group and Tactile Mobility began through BMW's Startup Garage, the Venture Client unit of the automaker. Assistance from BMW's Startup Garage provides startups with the resources to develop and refine their innovative automotive products. It also allows them to install and test their products on production BMW vehicles. 

The Startup Garage also benefits BMW, helping the company identify some of the new technologies being developed that might eventually end up in the automaker's production vehicles at scale. 

"We are appreciative of the support the BMW Startup Garage and the entire team at the BMW Group has given us and look forward to working together to provide smart and connected vehicles with a more comprehensive picture of the driving environments around them, which will now include the tactile sense," said Rani Plaut, Executive board member of Tactile Mobility. "Our dedicated team has been working towards this type of commercial integration for years, and we're excited to see the results implemented in the BMW Group's fleet of vehicles."  

Tactile Mobility was founded in 2012. The company is already working with multiple OEMs, road authorities, and municipalities. In addition to its headquarter in Israel, the company has a presence in Germany, the U.S., and Asia. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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