In Episode 43 of The Connext Podcast:

  • [0:23] What is Connext Drive? 
  • [1:08] Where did the motivation for Connext Drive come from?
  • [2:42] The major importance of an automotive software architecture  
  • [4:19] What does this mean for automotive customers who want to develop using Connext DDS?
  • [7:05] What is the most important thing you’d like our listeners to take away from this conversation?

Related Content:

  • [Press Release] RTI Unveils Connext Drive: The First Complete Automotive-Grade Connectivity Solution for Autonomous Vehicle Development
  • [Blog] RTI Connext Drive: Turn Here to Connect All Automotive Ecosystems
  • [Whitepaper] The Overarching Challenge for Autonomous Vehicles: Designing for a Future of Unknowns
  • [Product Page] Connext Drive 
  • [Case + Code] Accelerate Autonomous Car Development
  • [Datasheet] RTI in Autonomous Driving
  • [Podcast] Autonomous Vehicles: From Concept to Reality
  • [eBook] The Rise of the Robot Overlords: Clarifying the Industrial IoT

Podcast Transcription: 

Steven Onzo: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Connext Podcast. Today's episode is actually pretty special because RTI has just announced the release of Connext Drive™ - and who better to talk about a new RTI product than a familiar voice on the Connext Podcast, our own senior product manager Niheer Patel. Niheer, welcome back on the podcast.

Niheer Patel: Hey, thanks Steven. Glad to be here.

[0:23] What is Connext Drive?

Steven Onzo: Absolutely. So we're here to talk about Connext Drive - and just from the name of the product, you can guess that this will certainly impact the automotive industry in a big way. But before we get to any of that, let's just start with the mere basics. At a high level, can you tell me what Connext Drive is?

Niheer Patel: Yeah, absolutely. So Connext Drive is kind of a bundle of our software and tools really built on our foundational technology but tailored towards the automotive industry. So it includes the familiar Software Development Kit (SDK) that allows customers to build and integrate different distributed systems more specifically for in-vehicle applications, and all this is again based on our foundational Data Distribution Service (DDS) technology.

[1:08] Where did the motivation for Connext Drive come from?

Steven Onzo: I want to take one more step backward, and ask you where the motivation for Connext Drive came from.

Niheer Patel: That's a great question and a really important one to consider. So, we look at it from a couple different dimensions - two or three, depending on how you categorize them. The first is really looking at the phases of development for these automotive architectures, these autonomous platforms. You have your research, your commercial development, and you have your commercial deployment or production. And each of them has a very different set of needs, but there's also some level of continuity that needs to be maintained between them.

The other angle is just the fact that this is new technology. There's new architectures being developed for autonomous vehicles. So being able to support these new technologies and that third dimension, which may be an extension of this last one, is being able to evolve the architectures over time. Because companies and the automotive industry really figure out what needs to be developed and how to get it to market, they may be building upon previous iterations. They may be changing-out some of the technologies and swapping something in that's new, or different, or homegrown, or third-party. So having flexibility and low cost of product evolution is really critical, so that they can invest wisely and really start to build out those technologies.

Steven Onzo: It seems like the architecture of Connext Drive is just as important as the tools and features you get in the bundle.

[2:42] The major importance of an automotive software architecture 

Niheer Patel: Yeah - and so if we think about it, we tried to map as best we could the contents of Connext Drive to the architectures being developed and fundamentally there's three major components to an autonomous vehicle. I'll talk about a couple of them here. The most front-and-center thing is this autonomous piece where you have your influx of sensor input all being fused together to create this image of the world around the vehicle. This requires a lot of high compute, a lot of data input/output, large data samples, small data samples, high frequency data samples, low frequency. All this data is coming in at different rates, but it has to be put together. So that's kind of the big architecture, but that's not enough.

At the end of the day, you still have to control the actuators. You have to use maybe existing supply chain technologies and build out the frame of the car, the vehicle control and a lot of that, those are problems that have already been solved to a high degree, but it hasn't been integrated with autonomy. So this is where we have support for microcontrollers and we can fully inter-operate with these high compute platforms that are performing autonomy, and then we can help control the vehicle based on commands that are being generated out of this autonomous piece.

[4:19] What does this mean for automotive customers who want to develop using Connext DDS?

Steven Onzo: What does this mean for automotive customers who want to develop using our software?

Niheer Patel: Well, they can get started at a number of phases. So typically companies like to evaluate software before they get started, but they can evaluate the software in the context of their entire architecture. They can prototype their architecture using our software because we have all the pieces for the entire architecture and then they can even extend and expand on that. They can apply concepts like security, they can apply concepts like reliability and they can get it very easily. Right? So the idea behind Connext Drive is to make it super simple for these developers, evaluators and manufacturers who want to go into production, make it very simple for them to get their hands on software that can help them architect their systems and software, that'll allow them to take it into production in a safe way.

Steven Onzo: I think it's really interesting that we're offering Connext Drive and it can be so beneficial to any stage that you're in. I mean, all the way from research and development to production and deployment, you have a real wide window there. Is a product package like Connext Drive something we can see being adopted among other industry verticals like energy systems and healthcare in the future?

Niheer Patel: Yeah, absolutely. Sticking with the automotive industry for another minute, they're going to have very specific architectures and what we can do with Connext Drive is offer reference architecture examples, right? We can get folks started quickly, we can get them to production quickly. The same model could apply to any other industry. So I happen to work in avionics as well here at RTI. So we have some technology that is specific to our avionics customers and feasibly we could create something like this for them if that's what the market chooses.

So there's some research that might be required. It may not look the same exact way as Connext Drive, but the concept of creating a vertical offering that is tailor-made to a particular industry is certainly something we could repeat. We're focused on Connext Drive from an automotive standpoint as an opportunity to test this out without compromising value to all our other industries, our other customers who are very important to us. So this also gives us a way of saying: Hey, we can add more value to each of the industries across the board, without compromising that foundational technology that we know our customers value.

[7:05] What is the most important thing you’d like our listeners to take away from this conversation?

Steven Onzo: As the conversation winds down I have one last question for you and that's:  What do you think is the one thing you'd like our audience to take away from this conversation?

Niheer Patel: So there's a lot going on in the automotive world. There's all this new technology and it can be kind of hard to separate from the way things used to be done, right? And really think about the way things need to be done. So, I'll go back to those different dimensions and really ask the listeners to think, and this applies to other industries too, think about how you want to consume software for the different phases of your project life-cycle. Your product life-cycle, your system, software, whatever it may be, think about the architectures and think about how these architectures need to evolve going forward. Think about the ecosystems that need to be incorporated or that may be taken out of your system as you want to go towards production. So, phases of development life-cycle, the architecture and your path to evolving that architecture.

Steven Onzo: The path to evolving seems like a big one too, especially in a market that hasn't been clearly defined yet and we really don't know what will happen in the future. So giving yourself that room and that cushion to evolve is really important.

Niheer Patel: Exactly. And as listeners go back over what I've said, we're not saying anything different than we've already said about Data Distribution Service, or about Connext DDS, right? It's the same values, but we're focusing it and making it easier to realize those values, to apply the values and to extract that, whether it's in a technical sense or a monetary sense, for our customers to really deliver on what they need to for their customers.

Steven Onzo: Of course. I want to thank you for coming back onto the podcast. It's been awhile and coming on here and helping spread some of the excitement around Connext Drive.

Niheer Patel: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I love this thing and hoping to do more in the near future.

Steven Onzo: Absolutely. And to our listeners, I'd encourage you to visit our website, for more information about Connext Drive. There you'll find a press release with some detailed information. Also feel free to reach out to us at RTI with any questions you might have. Thanks for tuning into another episode of the Connext Podcast.


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