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Carmenta

Carmenta wants to guide self-driving cars

After many years supplying safety-critical systems to the defence industry, Gothenburg-based Carmenta is now taking on the automotive industry.
"We believe that we can bring something new to the table," says Kristian Jaldemark at Carmenta Automotive.

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Carmenta, with its head office in Gothenburg, was founded in 1985 and has delivered software for safety-critical systems for more than 30 years. The company has its roots in the defence industry, but today its customers are just as likely to be found among emergency service call centre providers.

Kristian Jaldemark has worked at Carmenta for 17 years, starting out as a software engineer. Until the end of 2016, he worked solely with various defence contracts, acting in roles from developer and project manager to kay account manager for Carmenta's largest defence customer, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.

Today, he's responsible for Carmenta's development team at Carmenta TrafficWatch, which was established in 2017.

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Carmenta

Why is Carmenta entering the automotive industry?

"There are many intertwined factors leading us to believe that we'll succeed. Vehicles are rapidly becoming connected and there's also the strong trend towards autonomous vehicles. However, the automotive industry is taking an infotainment and nice-to-have approach to this connected world. We have both the products and the expertise necessary to take a safety-critical approach to building management systems for a connected world. We believe that our experience will enable us to bring something new to the automotive industry," says Kristian.

Copious data to manage

The business unit at the core of Carmenta's operations is Carmenta Geospatial Technology, encompassing software components for building management systems.

"You can consider it a toolbox that is used to manage all information with geographical aspects, everything that has some sort of position in the world. And there's often a great deal of data that needs to be managed, everything from map data to the information received via radar or different kinds of sensors. This must be combined into shared situational awareness, so that you have full control over your actions, your location and where different vehicles, people or objects are found, enabling you to use the information to make decisions."

And this is something that Carmenta's software is clearly good at. Customers include Saab, Thales and Airbus – major international companies which build solutions for these types of operations.

Directing emergency service vehicles

Moreover, there is another business unit, Carmenta Public Safety and Security, for which Carmenta acts as a system supplier. They use the company's proprietary software and develop complementary software to create complete systems. As a system supplier, Carmenta's customers include SOS Alarm, the Swedish emergency services call centre provider, for which Carmenta provides the entire management system for handling 112 calls and directing emergency service vehicles to the right place in good time. Carmenta has also supplied the Swedish Maritime Administration's air and sea rescue service at Käringberget in Gothenburg, which handles air and sea rescue for all of Sweden.

"This product is also used in a number of other countries, mostly European, and is a typical safety-critical system where nothing is allowed to fail. There are an incredible number of operators sitting and using this system in different contexts," says Kristian.

Knowing what is happening one kilometre away

The expertise and products that Carmenta has in these two business units have now been introduced to the automotive industry and Carmenta TrafficWatch, where a management system for connected and automated vehicles is being developed. Carmenta's approach remains the same, to produce safety-critical systems that add additional layers of safety when operating vehicle fleets. It's based on the same idea of processing all the available information in real time in order to make the best decisions.

"When we're talking about an autonomous car, it's not enough to use the car's sensors – the cameras can't see very far, and any radar sensors might cover about 100-200 metres. But you need to know what's happening one kilometre away or five kilometres away. What's the traffic situation, is a heavy rainstorm on the way or has the road suddenly turned slippery on the bridge up ahead," says Kristian.

"There's a great deal of information that the driver needs to keep track of in a connected environment in order to make the right decisions, regardless of whether the driver is a person or a computer. We'll need a system designed to handle all this. What's more, the technology has begun to reach the maturity required to create these solutions thanks to the various cloud-based management systems available to us," says Kristian.

Where do you envisage potential customers for your systems? 

"We focus solely on what's outside the car, not in-car software. Accordingly, we rely on other actors. Naturally, some of these actors are the auto manufacturers themselves, which to varying degrees create the necessary systems and connect their own cars. Then there are companies which supply the automotive industry and which in some cases will also create complete offerings centred on self-driving functions, such as Zenuity here in Gothenburg or Bosch in Europe. They could incorporate our software as part of their offerings. The third customer group comprises actors which take a system approach at a higher level than the auto manufacturers – government agencies such as the Swedish Transport Administration or actors offering smart city solutions that require an integration point to gather all the information and make decisions on an infrastructure level."

Carmenta has experience in this field as their software is used in Sweden's national traffic management system, so the company has expertise on systems of this type too.

The mobility of tomorrow today

However, these systems need a number of additional dimensions. Simply being able to see what's happening will not suffice – there's a need to start proactively managing and directing traffic.   

"And in order to be able to manage and direct, you need a management system that enables you to make decisions based on all the available information. So then you need to add the connected vehicles currently in traffic to the management system."

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Carmenta

Time frames are an issue that constantly arises when talking about the mobility of the future. Although in Carmenta's world, it's kind of already here.

"Autonomous vehicles in traffic are quite a distant phenomenon, even if trials are already under way in the Drive Me project or the driverless minibuses at Chalmers University of Technology, in Lindholmen and in Kista. But those are purely trials. Our business concept is based on the fact that the systems required to operate future autonomous vehicles can prove useful already today."

Here, Kristian reiterates that regardless of whether the driver is a human or a computer, the same decision support is required and we can already offer it to human drivers today, provided they have connected cars that can communicate that information in an effective manner. 

"It's very useful when driving your car to know that conditions are slippery two kilometres down the road, or that you have an ambulance approaching you from behind which will need to pass you shortly. This type of information could be used by a vehicle fleet that is connected. So the time is already ripe, and our system also adds value for the automated vehicle fleets of the future."

So your systems could be implemented in today's cars, provided they're connected? 

"Yes. We're building solutions that are outside the car, so we can create the possibility to communicate with vehicles. Then there's a need for a way to communicate with the driver or an autonomous function, but there are actors working on these aspects too. Displays, for instance, can now be configured in very different ways to before, and there's a market for retrofitting connectivity to cars. And even cars that lack cameras and sensors can use other cars around them as sensors and utilise that information," says Kristian.

When trying to imagine the connected vehicles of the future, we often picture connected highways or roadside infrastructure offering WiFi and hardware. This type of infrastructure is costly to build and works best in densely populated areas. But there's another way to approach things, namely to utilise what already exists. The mobile network is one such existing infrastructure and we could use data from existing sources, such as the Transport Administration, SOS Alarm and other connected public actors, as well as all vehicles – and perhaps even people – on the move. 

"Using and compiling this information allows us to reduce the costs for such infrastructure."

In other words, your solutions are equally viable on an isolated road running through the Swedish countryside in Dalsland?

"Exactly, it should also work in sparsely populated areas. And that's the scenario that auto manufacturers need to assume as well. A few years from now, Volvo can't possibly hope to sell an autonomous car that can only drive around in Gothenburg; few people would be willing to pay for such a car. I'm quite convinced that the auto manufacturers understand and assume this," says Kristian.

And now that Carmenta is part of Western Sweden's automotive cluster, how does that feel?

"Very exciting, our goal is to create strong business growth. It's very cool to have Lindholmen as a hub of sorts in this cluster. There's a general willingness and desire to cooperate and develop future-oriented projects together. I think everyone realises that there's strength in numbers, even though there's the obvious competitive aspect as well."

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"Gothenburg attracts the best talent in the world"

Connecting cloud-based traffic management functions with vehicles and other actors, such as weather services, the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish emergency services call centre provider SOS Alarm, is something that is under development and being tested within the DriveSweden national strategic innovation programme, which has a programme office at Lindholmen Science Park. DriveSweden offers an excellent platform for cooperation, with Carmenta and others actively pursuing efforts to solve social challenges associated with, for example, traffic safety, transport efficiency and sustainability issues.

S3 – Shared Shuttle Service – is another such project arising from the DriveSweden partnership.

For the connected self-driving vehicles of the future, support functions can encompass everything from remote guidance, vehicle control and infrastructure such as traffic lights and pedestrian crossings to data security concepts, payment transaction services and more.

Today, Lindholmen is an area that attracts the best talent in the world when it comes to development spheres concerning future transport systems. We're also seeing a trend of increasingly more homecomers – students who graduated in Gothenburg and have since worked abroad or elsewhere in Sweden returning to join the technology development arena where it's all happening and the future is being defined.

Then there's the corporate world, which is witnessing a monumental surge in new investments and establishments, spanning everything related to software development, automotive electronics, telematics, embedded systems, IT security, sensors, map data, AI, cloud platforms and more. These are companies seeking both office space and employees to develop their business activities in Gothenburg.

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