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on 13 October 2022

An inside look at autonomous vehicle hardware: Advantech’s ITA-460

You’ve probably heard about the Internet of Things but what about the Artificial Intelligence of Things? Yes, connected things are also getting smarter and smarter. AIoT is a new field that combines AI and IoT in fascinating new use cases, some of them in automotive. 

In response to the booming AIoT market, Canonical partnered with Advantech, a global leader in industrial IoT, to provide an AI in-vehicle platform with visual recognition. This platform is powered by the ITA-460, a modular, water-resistant fanless in-vehicle computer that is certified on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and powered by an Intel® 8th/9th Gen Core™ i CPU. This platform allows the installation of several additional extensions that significantly increase its functionality. One of these extensions is the MXM GPU for AI acceleration, which perfectly matches application requirements. In this blog post, we will give you a glimpse of this solution’s capabilities and how it’s used in autonomous vehicles.

AIoT in action

Everyone knows about autonomous cars, but not many people know that autonomous buses are hitting the road. In China, buses and tunnel boring machines powered by Advantech’s ITA-460 are already a reality. The device can also be used to power up autonomous forklifts in warehouses, along with many other types of vehicles used in agriculture and heavy industry. These innovations have been made possible thanks to AI. 

An artificial intelligence-enabled platform for the automotive industry

Artificial intelligence is at the heart of most innovations in the automotive industry. Self-driving vehicles are just one example. A lot of activity happens under the hood of an autonomous vehicle. We’re not just talking about the regular mechanics anymore, but also reliable and productive hardware that can ensure timely updates and an uninterrupted ability to access the network. That’s where the ITA-460 shines. 

The ITA-460 has a powerful processor on board. This, together with the MXM GPU extension for the ITA-460 artificial intelligence accelerator and Ubuntu 20.04, allows automotive manufacturers to efficiently run workloads with large amounts of data, as well as applications for automated guided vehicles (AGV). 

In addition, Advantech’s ITA-460 is equipped with 3 mini PCIe expansion connectors to integrate WiFi, LTE and GPS wireless communication modules through the reserved 6 SMA connectors for data transmission and provides high data transfer speeds in demanding data-intensive applications. It’s an ideal platform for autonomous vehicles. 

Installing and integrating the ITA-460 into vehicles

Now that we know the device’s capabilities, it’s worth considering how it can be  installed and integrated with the rest of the vehicle. First of all, you need to find a suitable place to install the device, often there is not much space in the vehicle. So the smaller the device is, the better. The ITA-460 has a compact body of only 190x70x220mm. This small size is suitable for aftermarket installed demand. In addition to size, it’s important to consider integration. 

The device needs to work in tandem with other components and gain access to all vehicle control systems. It has to control the steering wheel, the gas pedal and brakes, be able to turn on the indicator lights on time and much more. And what if the gasoline or oil in the engine runs out? The vehicle is made up of electronic systems and subsystems that are controlled by Electronic Control Units (ECUs). For example, an engine control unit (ECU) that controls a series of actuators on an internal combustion engine to ensure optimal engine performance, or a brake control module that explicitly controls the brakes. There may be up to 70 ECUs in a modern vehicle, and each of them may have information that needs to be shared with other parts of the network. The CAN bus system enables each ECU to communicate with all other ECUs – without complex dedicated wiring.

The ITA-460 has an extension module to support CAN, which allows for easy integration into the  vehicle. This capability, combined with the ITA-460’s size helps reduce the cost of development and deliver the solution to market faster.

Industrial-level protection

Besides considering how a device will be physically installed in a vehicle, it’s important to consider its durability.  The device may be damaged by external factors, such as  water interference or physical shock, which could compromise the integrity of the system.  Developers can be confident in their code, but that’s not enough. You need hardware that’s designed for industrial use. 

Advantech designed the  ITA-460 for use in extreme conditions. It has a waterproof, shock-resistant and vibration-resistant design with an IEC 60721-3-5 5 M3 classification, MIL-STD-810G certification and IP-65 (IP-67 as an option). The ITA-460 has a vehicle degree power system and protection certified according to ISO 7637-2 Pulse 5a. 

As we can see, the device’s specifications take all possible scenarios of physical impact into account. This minimises the risks of malfunction due to external factors. Such hardware allows you to focus on the development of applications, in order to ensure the smooth operation of the service. 

Reliable operations and maintenance with Ubuntu

Protected hardware alone is not enough, a stable and secure operating system is also required. With Ubuntu Certified Hardware, Advantech and Canonical work together to provide deployment-ready AIoT devices and ensure developers have the best out-of-the-box Ubuntu experience. Canonical conducts tests to confirm that the Ubuntu version running on the system meets industry standards and that every I/O on the ITA-460 is working properly, including 2 USB 3.0/3.1 ports, 2 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and 2 COM ports (RS232/422/485). In addition, the ITA-460 features the security and stability improvements of Ubuntu 20.04. It includes an ongoing security patching process and features such as kernel self-protection, stack collision protection, and control flow integrity.  Moreover, with over-the-air (OTA) and transactional updates, which are certified by Ubuntu, the ITA-460 supports the safe and smooth operation of AIoT applications in the vehicle.

Canonical also provides continuous regression testing of the certified ITA-460 throughout the Ubuntu release life cycle and guarantees 5 years of maintenance updates and 5 years of expanded security updates through an Ubuntu Pro subscription. Ubuntu Pro includes necessary automated tooling to comply with DISA-STIG guidelines on Linux, and FIPS 140-2 information processing certification for US and Canadian government cryptographic modules. Ubuntu Security Guide is provided for automated audit and compliance with CIS benchmarks. 

Learn more about Ubuntu Pro

The next autonomous vehicle you see could be running Ubuntu Certified Hardware

We hope this post gave you a sneak peek at the fascinating world of autonomous vehicles and the hardware that makes them possible. With the Ubuntu Certified Hardware program, certified devices are tested for reliability and performance, ensuring you have the best out-of-the-box Ubuntu experiences.  This helps you simplify the implementation of your solutions and reduce operating system development and support costs.

To learn more about Ubuntu Certified Hardware and explore catalogue to discover hardware from partners that fit your project needs, visit our webpage. Curious about the many applications of Ubuntu in automotive? Find out how we are helping OEMs embrace digital transformation.

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