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For autonomous driving to move forward will require much greater cooperation between major suppliers and automotive OEMs, especially in the area of R&D with the many challenges ahead, a panel of experts said in an AutoMobili-D session at the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

One of the challenges is for sensors, working with artificial intelligence, to recognize “what is around the vehicle” as it proceeds “in close proximity and far ahead, said Harsha Badarinarayan, a director in Hitachi America’s R&D practice.

“How do you sense the environment? For instance, how do you estimate where the vehicle is traveling if it can’t [detect] lane markers. AI and machine learning will help us with this.”

Another important issue to be worked out is the division of labor – and storage – between data that stays in the vehicle for fast access and that which is shipped out to the cloud for processing.

“Cloud-based analytics will be very important,” said George Saikalis, a senior vice president and chief technology officer for Hitachi America. “What do you keep in the vehicle and what is transferred out to the cloud for further analysis? Those [determinations] need to be happening between OEMs and suppliers.”

Security of data for automated driving is another important area, noted Lee Aho, vice president of design engineering for Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas. “The security of data coming into the vehicle is extremely critical in making sure that it’s good and legitimate data,” he said. “And there’s a certain amount of privacy that users can expect.”

Meanwhile, one place where suppliers and OEMs already are cooperating to advance autonomous driving is MCity, the test facility at the University of Michigan that opened last year. It’s been in use flat-out since mid-2016, reported panelist Huei Peng, associate director of the Mobility Transformation Center at the University of Michigan.

“But we will still focus on pre-competitive research too” at the university,” Peng said. “We won’t change our focus.”