The Offline Executor: Virtual Testing and the Aurora Driver

Aurora Team

Our approach to simulation reflects our design philosophy — we invest time to create tools expressly for self-driving cars, increasing operational safety down the road.

This video illustrates how we turn interesting driving situations into simulations. Part one shows actual video of a complex situation that a test vehicle encountered on the road. In part two, we recreate this scene in simulation, but add additional interesting and complex behaviors. For example, in part three, we add a jaywalking pedestrian to the scene.

There’s a lot of talk in our industry about how many miles companies have driven on the road. While there is value in real-world miles, we believe the safest and most efficient way to deliver self-driving technology is by incorporating strong virtual testing capabilities into our development.

At Aurora, we invest time in building smart tools and processes that enable us to quickly accelerate development, all while keeping safety at the forefront. Our simulation work is no exception. Unlike many in the industry, we’ve taken the time to develop our own solution to analyze system performance through simulated autonomous driving scenarios, rather than rely on game engines or other pre-built software. We call this solution the offline executor.

The Value of Virtual Testing

This is an example of a simulation with many permutations of a crowd of pedestrians crossing the street.

Virtual testing provides repeatable measures of performance, speeds development, and lowers the risk inherent to real-world driving activities. Simulation is one example of our virtual testing.

For example, if we’re working on the way our software handles pedestrian crosswalks, we can pull from our database of interactions for each occasion where our Driver encountered a pedestrian at a crosswalk. Then, in simulation, we can replay those interactions and evaluate how the new code would handle not only this situation, but myriad permutations of it. We can change the parameters of the encounter: Are there two adult pedestrians? An adult and a child? Is it a group of pedestrians? This allows us to test the Driver against a diverse set of cases without needing to drive this scenario repeatedly in the real world, hoping we encounter all of the interesting variations we care about.

The vast majority of our simulation experiments are short, and focus on specific interactions, allowing us to efficiently cover a huge number of effective testing miles.

The Concept of Determinism

Adapting game engines or other applications to create simulated environments for self-driving vehicle software to navigate is effective in the short term — it gets testing operations up quickly. But this approach has an important drawback, which involves the concept of determinism.

In simulation, a test that’s deterministic is one that, given the same environmental inputs, provides the same result. No randomness is involved. Game engines can be remarkable pieces of software and we’ve been able to make use of their technology in the design and preparation of individual elements for our simulations. But they’re not built specifically for self-driving car testing. They often don’t run in lock-step with the autonomy software leading to results that are not deterministic. Given the same sensor inputs, simulations based on game engines will not necessarily provide the same test result.

That’s tricky for simulation testing because it introduces a level of uncertainty. Simulation testing aims to verify the robustness of new software code. Did the test fail because of the new code? Or did it have something to do with the non-determinism of the simulation environment? When it’s based on game engines, it’s difficult to be certain. With our systems, the simulation and autonomy software move in lock step — removing the uncertainty.

Aurora’s Offline Executor

We’ve engineered a tool built specifically for the validation of self-driving car software — the offline executor — and it’s crucial to our simulation efforts. It uses the same programming framework as the Aurora Driver software stack, and the same libraries. In fact, because it is purpose-built to work with our system, the offline executor allows us to have deterministic offline testing for any module, for any team, across the entire organization. That’s a huge benefit. Otherwise, integrating game engines to work with self-driving software can sometimes feel like putting a square peg into a round hole.

With our offline executor, we don’t have to spend a huge amount of effort integrating the simulation environment with the rest of our system. Instead, we have a system designed from the ground up that enables lock-step execution of self-driving software and the simulation it interacts with. We can then test the same software that runs on our vehicles at massive, cloud-scale including detailed simulation of latencies and compute delays that happen on real-world hardware.

When we build a new capability, the first step is to build the simulations which feature the interaction we’re developing. Next, we write the code, and then we run the code through the simulations using the offline executor.

Using the offline executor streamlines our development process by employing software modules in a manner similar to the overall self-driving stack. For example, when testing an element of the motion-planning module, the offline executor’s simulation module feeds the planner the set of inputs it otherwise would get from the perception module. These are synthesized inputs, but the motion-planning module can’t tell the difference. That means the system reacts in the same way to a simulated environment as it would in the real world — which is crucial to making reliable autonomy software.

Here’s an example: The simulation module feeds the motion-planning module the knowledge that a car is passing in the right lane, and a pedestrian is traversing a crosswalk up ahead.

Based on these inputs, the motion-planning module will calculate a trajectory — the vehicle’s intended course over the next few seconds. That output goes to the validation module. The validator’s job is to decide whether the trajectory is a good one. Did the motion-planning module do the right thing? The validation module evaluates the trajectory by asking a series of questions. Did the trajectory obey the law? Did the motion planning module meet its objective? Is this trajectory comfortable for vehicle occupants? If the motion-planning module’s trajectory passes all such tests, it passes the interaction.

Test-Driven Development

This is an example of a complex merging simulation. There are three options for the car — merging in front, merging between, or merging behind — depending on the speed, the space between the actors, and other factors. This simulation allows us to understand the decisions the Aurora Driver would make, so we can modify the behavior as needed before our cars actually hit the road.

Using test-driven development means we build a set of simulations to test a capability before we even write the code to implement that capability. For example, take an unprotected left turn. We create simulations and at first, all of the simulations usually fail — these are progression simulations. As we start to add code to implement the capability, we continue to test it against the simulations and more and more tests start to pass. We set a bar, and once our software passes that bar, we’re ready to hit the road.

This approach has multiple advantages. For one, there is a clear safety advantage to testing and validating our code before it’s on the road. It also empowers our engineers. They’re able to get feedback more quickly as they write the code, which enables them to move faster, without sacrificing safety. It also allows them to think outside the box; simulation acts as a safety net — allowing our engineers to be creative in their code because they’re confident it will be tested many times in simulation before it’s out in the world.

In order to enable this approach when it comes to perception modules, we need to simulate sensor data. To do this, we use the offline executor to create a simulation module that feeds the perception module the data it otherwise would get from its sensors — the point clouds from the LIDAR, the pixels of the camera, returns from radar. Using synthesized data, perception makes its conclusions about the world around it. The output of this process is a set of predictions about what the car sees — this set of returns is a parked car. This set of data is a cyclist. And so on. In the real world, these outputs would be fed to the motion-planning module. In simulation tests, we capture these outputs and feed them into the perception validation pipeline, which makes conclusions about the correctness of the perception module. This allows us the option to test the perception system separately from the motion planning system, which means we can validate the parts individually before bringing them together. The offline executor also allows simulation testing in which the perception and motion planning modules run together. All of which adds up to a flexible and safe way of validating the system with the offline executor.

Delivering a Safe and Robust Aurora Driver

Before we conclude, it’s important to ask: as we develop the Aurora Driver, where does on-road testing fit in?

Rather than a forum for new development, we treat real-world testing as a mechanism for validating and improving the fidelity of our more rapid virtual testing. Road time is also useful as a way to collect data concerning how expert human drivers navigate complex scenarios.

This strategy has allowed us to contain the size of our on-road testing fleet. With safety in mind, we limit the distance our test vehicles travel by pursuing mileage quality over quantity; that is, we seek out interesting miles rather than just pursuing large quantities of miles.

So whether it’s simulation, on-road testing, or other development, we take pride in an uncompromising and rigorous development process designed expressly for delivering a safe and robust Aurora Driver. While it can be tempting to use pre-existing solutions because they can save time in the short run, we know investing the effort now will pay huge dividends in the future.

Aurora is delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. We’re looking for talented people to join our team.

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SWINGING DICKISM WRIT LARGE.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Now that the smoke from the burning piles of money torched at “Monterey Car Week” has subsided, a couple of stories have emerged. And no, I’m not going to go into the massive screwup of the failed sale of the alleged “first Porsche” – the Type 64 – by RM Sotheby’s. That debacle will haunt that particular auction house and the entire auction “thing” for years to come. And besides, plenty has been written about it already, the best being Hannah Elliott’s take on the event in Bloomberg

First of all, there’s a distinct cooling going on in the collector car “hobby” as prices have decidedly taken a turn downward. (The fact that people still refer to the collector car circus as a “hobby” is a recurring joke; in fact, it’s a big frickin’ business with more egos involved than the jostling for seating at the “it” restaurant of the moment in Beverly Hills.) Rough estimates suggest that prices were down at least 25 percent, but I think that number is low, especially considering the number of cars that went unsold at the auctions last week. And it was bound to happen, too, even though the prognosticators in the “hobby” insisted that all was well, right up to the point that it wasn’t. 

Let’s face it, the “hobby” has turned into a nightmare. The notion of “important” collectible automobiles with notable “provenance” that were lusted after for the sheer thrill of being next to the one of most coveted machines ever built fell afoul of the scammers and speculators years ago. Greed became the “hobby’s” cottage industry, and values were regularly skewed to an unconscionable level as a matter of course. This trend redefined the term “stupid money” and took it to an entirely new level. My go-to barometer for all of this was the absurd run-up in prices for air-cooled Porsche 911s. Yes, prices have appeared to have finally softened – albeit only slightly – after a half-decade of out-of-control frenzy, but still, $100,000+ for an old 911 is de rigueur, and it still basically sucks.

The second big story to emerge from Monterey Car Week was the rise of the hypercar. What is a hypercar, exactly? Good question. These are fantasy machines that really have no rhyme or reason. There is no connection to any road-going reality with these machines because the idea of driving them on the street is beyond laughable. The manufacturers love to boast that these hypercars allow them to showcase their technological might and creative vision, but that is unmitigated bullshit. No, these bespoke projectiles are designed to extricate as much money as possible from fools who have too much money.

And the roster of manufacturers partaking in this ode to greed is an impressive one. There’s the all-electric Lotus Evija, which is touted as being “the most powerful series production road car in the world” with 2000PS and will be limited to 130 cars total.

(Lotus)

Then there’s the Aston Martin Valkyrie, which is already sold out, and the Valhalla, which boasts Red Bull Advanced Technologies from F1 and will be limited to 500 cars. Aston Martin is handpicking prospective buyers to hype up the desirability for its hypercar, because nothing lures big money buyers more than telling them that can’t have one but instead have to “qualify” for one. Gets ‘em every time.

(Aston Martin)

Then there’s the Bugatti Centodieci, a tribute by the manufacturer, ironically enough, to itself. The 1600HP machine based on the Chiron is supposed to pay homage to the Bugatti EB110 from the 90s. Only ten will be built, starting at 8 million EUROS plus VAT, but don’t worry, they’re already (allegedly) sold out.

(Bugatti)

And there are more coming. The Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar, for instance, will feature Formula 1 technology for the road, which is, for all intents and purposes, basically meaningless at this point.

(Mercedes-Benz)

Where is all of this going? Nowhere good, as you might imagine. These bespoke projectiles are nothing more than Swinging Dickism writ large. They are frightfully expensive garage art pieces that will never be driven, because, after all, that was never the intent. Formula 1 technology for the street? Who’s kidding whom? What street? Are you going to actually drive your hypercar to the country club and hand it over to a valet? Are you going to spend hour after hour at track days to explore the limits of your hypercar to justify your purchase? The answer to these questions is a resounding no.

These hypercars are rolling monuments to greed on the manufacturers’ part, and irresistible to the buyers’ who should know better but are blinded by their unbridled egos. And these hypercars are all going to end up at auction over the next several years with two miles, or ten miles, or, well, you get the picture. And when you really think about it is calculatedly brilliant, because it keeps the operating scam of the “hobby” percolating along.

Contemplating all of this makes me realize how truly creative the True Believers at GM were – and are – with the new mid-engine Corvette Stingray. In terms of design, engineering and performance this outstanding machine was surgically priced from the start to deliver the most seductive combination of high performance and stunning value that this business has seen in a long, long time. Maybe ever. And it is simply untouchable in the market. 

The new Corvette is a proper tribute to one of the greatest icons of the automotive world. It is true to its authentic history, while offering enthusiasts a realistic opportunity to experience genuine supercar performance at a reasonable price – without the hype. What a concept.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(Chevrolet)

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Our Journey to Driverless Cars

Two years ago, we launched our first-generation fleet of self-driving cars at a small retirement community in San Jose. It blows my mind to think how far Voyage has come since then.

Today, Voyage’s self-driving technology is robust, reliable, and capable of complex interactions and maneuvers. We launched our second-generation fleet of self-driving cars with best-in-class sensors and compute, signed unique maintenance and insurance deals with companies like Enterprise and Intact, expanded operations from a 4,000 resident retirement community in San Jose to a 125,000 resident retirement city in Florida, and grew our deployment waitlist to communities containing over 1.1 million residents.

Best of all, we expanded our team of Voyagers from 5 to 50. World-class engineers joined us from great companies like Cruise, Tesla, Uber ATG, Apple SPG, Google, NIO, Twitter, SpaceX, and more. We also welcomed Drew Gray as our CTO, after he built autonomous vehicles at Tesla, Cruise, Otto, and Uber ATG.

Voyage began in retirement communities two years ago because we believed the calm roadway offers a clear path to truly driverless cars today. The progress we’ve made on our self-driving technology has validated that this is true. What’s more, we’ve also validated the transportation opportunity ahead of us, after seeing incredible demand from residents for our product.

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Building Self-Driving Cars by Embracing Remote Engineering

Work from anywhere in the U.S. and engineer truly driverless cars at Voyage

Billy Okal, a remote Voyage engineer

Building a self-driving car has always been regarded as a hands-on exercise. It’s easy to imagine why, with state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles containing dozens of hardware components interacting with many layers of complex software. This delicate dance has resulted in zero self-driving car programs embracing large-scale remote engineering to date.

We’ve always done things differently at Voyage, and recruiting is no exception. We are building a world-class team of machine learning, robotics and software experts, and we are now embracing those engineers working from anywhere in the USA.

We began experimenting with remote engineering in late 2018, to see if it truly could work on a project this challenging, and I’m happy to report it has worked phenomenally well.

In Chicago, Billy, an ex-Apple SPG engineer, works on our Behavior module. In Los Angeles, Nickolai, an ex-SpaceX and Tesla engineer, works on our fail-safe systems. In Seattle, Matt, an ex-Twitter engineer, works on our Perception systems. We began experimenting with remote engineering on a small scale, and we are now ready to truly embrace remote work to grow our engineering team even faster. We are aiming to hire an additional 10 remote engineers over the next three months, and many more thereafter.

If you’re interested in joining the Voyage team, we’re now accepting remote engineering applications for roles on our perception, prediction, tele-operations, integration, infrastructure and safety-critical platform teams. Browse our Careers page to find the right role for you.

Voyage – Careers

A sample of our G2 autonomous vehicle fleet

Why Is This Possible Now?

The proliferation of Zoom, Slack and other tools has enabled countless software startups to embrace remote work. This trend, and its many advantages, is hard to ignore. At Voyage, we put key infrastructure in place to enable remote engineering that really works for us, and we continue to invest in more.

  1. Extensive tooling for engineers
  2. Rapid iteration with reliable simulation
  3. Access to powerful compute and hardware
  4. A world-class operations team

Extensive Engineering Tooling

Since Day 1 of Voyage, we have invested heavily in world-class tooling. Our Tooling team has the audacious goal of 10x’ing engineering productivity, wherever those engineers are. The tools we’ve built demonstrate that.

Our chain of tools is extensive, ensuring we can rapidly capture data in the field and get it to any engineers desk (or sofa) in hours. We’ve built in-car note-taking tools (Notepad), data storage, annotation and slicing solutions (Baggage), custom CI integrations, event querying (Query), data analytics (utilizing off-the-shelf tools like Mode and Grafana), powerful data visualization (VoyageViz), issue triage (powered by RavenOps), and lots more.

A small preview of some of our internal tools

Because of our focus on tooling, our remote engineers have real-time access to critical data and tools necessary to do their job from anywhere in the USA. Data, perhaps generated from thousands of miles away, is available on any engineers machine in hours.

Rapid Iteration With Simulation

In the early days of any self-driving car startup, the fastest way for an engineer to run experiments is to physically jump into a vehicle and experiment. This very quickly becomes a pain point and a time sink. The ability to iterate as rapidly as possible is what engineers crave, and there’s no better way in self-driving cars to iterate than in reliable simulation environments.

A small sample of our simulation scenarios, powered by Applied Intuition

Every engineer at Voyage, regardless of location, has access to Simian (either running locally on their machine for fast turnaround or remotely for scale), the amazing simulation environment provided by our friends at Applied Intuition. Not every self-driving car startup has access to extensive and powerful simulation. We do, and it’s proven to be a key enabler for remote engineering.

Fast access to data and powerful compute is crucial to enabling remote engineering

Access to Powerful Compute and Hardware

Our vehicles generate a lot of data: telemetry, sensor outputs, compute information, metrics and more. Because of the size of this raw data, it’s often tempting to store it on-premise. This is, in fact, how we began: installing a Network Attached Storage (NAS) unit at our Palo Alto headquarters. After we added our first remote engineer, we enabled VPN access to this NAS, but the speeds were unbearably slow.

The solution? The cloud. All the data generated by our vehicles now makes its way to the cloud (powered by AWS). From here, this data can be sliced, analyzed or downloaded by any engineer around the world. What’s more, we’ve also installed fiber links in our vehicles, ensuring that we can offload data from our vehicles to the cloud at the fastest possible speed.

In addition to making extensive use of AWS for data storage and propagation, every engineer has access to powerful, GPU-powered remote compute clusters they can use to experiment, train or visualize.

Our Operations team with Sally, one of our first riders at The Villages

A World-Class Operations Team

Most crucial of all to enabling remote engineering is a world-class Operations team that is continuously pushing our software to its limits and generating new insights.

Our fleet of G2 autonomous vehicles today operates in three locations: our Testing Grounds in San Jose, The Villages in Florida, and The Villages in San Jose. Our vehicles, monitored by our Operators, are continuously driving these locations with the latest software release, generating new learnings daily.

A portion of our Testing Grounds in San Jose

When something cannot be tested or validated in simulation, the Operations team is there to execute tests and get fast feedback to our engineers. Any engineer, regardless of where they are located, can easily request any structured test, branch or release to be deployed by utilizing our #dispatch channel in Slack. A comprehensive spreadsheet report is then generated, with the results the engineer requested.

Perhaps my favorite meeting of the week at Voyage is Triage Weekly, organized and run by our Operations team. We invite everyone at Voyage to a one-hour Zoom meeting, where the biggest issues the team saw in the field that week are exposed and discussed. This is a great forum for anyone, in any location, to understand what our biggest challenges are, and to help overcome them.

With our remote-friendly culture and ongoing investment in remote-enabling tools and infrastructure, we’re excited to grow our team of engineers anywhere in the U.S.

I’ve always been a believer that great minds exist all over the world, and many simply cannot or will not live in Silicon Valley (although we are still hiring for our HQ in Palo Alto). Many of these minds would thrive working on a problem as challenging as truly driverless vehicles, and I am excited that we are now embracing remote work to find these world-class engineers.

Voyage – Careers


Building Self-Driving Cars by Embracing Remote Engineering was originally published in Voyage on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Why Retirement Communities Are Perfect for Self-Driving Cars

Today’s car is built for the average driver. The average driver can demonstrate reasonable reflexes, agility and vision. However, as we age, our reflexes, agility and vision begin to suffer. When they do, the confidence we once felt while driving quickly disappears. This can be incredibly debilitating.

As driving becomes a struggle, many senior citizens are left with two unattractive options: find an alternative form of transportation, or stay home. While you or I may be familiar with calling an Uber from time-to-time for convenience, some seniors have to search for alternative transportation every single day.

“Among the users of this service are so many elderly in The Villages who cannot drive anymore. They need convenient, reliable, and safe transportation to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, and, of course all the amenities in The Villages. To be a part of the launch of such a project is such a privilege.” – A Villages Resident

CCTV from a retirement community

Eventually, it may be time to give up driving altogether. But, without good alternatives, many seniors are understandably reluctant to give up car ownership. Car ownership is synonymous with freedom, and many hang on to driving, even if their senses aren’t what they used to be.

What’s more, seniors have a higher disability rate than non-seniors. Of our 47 million seniors in the US, 35.2% reported a disability compared with 10.6% of those between 18 and 64 years old. The amount of transportation friction a typical senior citizen experiences in a single day is impossible for many of us to relate to.

“As we age, even though we may still be very active and alert, sometimes our senses are not as quick as they once were. I would like to have a convenient and safe way to travel throughout my hometown without the stress of having to guess what another driver might do on the streets.” – A Villages Resident

By 2060, more than 100 million Americans will be over 65. This is a huge market for self-driving cars. We must improve the transportation options available for senior citizens, and we think that our self-driving car will bring about the necessary safety, cost, and convenience benefits that this growing demographic so badly needs.

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INEOS Automotive Announces Powertrain Technology Partnership With BMW

Significant milestone in the development of INEOS Automotive’s 4×4, Projekt Grenadier, with the announcement of a powertrain technology partnership with BMW Group

Technology partnership is the latest step forward in the realisation of INEOS’s plans to build an uncompromising world-class 4×4 vehicle

BMW Group will supply both petrol and diesel engines, giving Projekt Grenadier’s customers the best choice of reliable, durable, high performance and efficient powertrains

Keep up to date at https://projektgrenadier.com/


INEOS Automotive is pleased to announce that it has entered into a powertrain technology partnership with BMW Group, which will result in the car maker supplying engines for its forthcoming 4×4, Projekt Grenadier.

The partnership will see BMW’s TwinPower Turbo petrol and diesel engines, famed for their world-class blend of durability, performance and efficiency, feature under the bonnet of INEOS Automotive’s off-roader.

The announcement is a major step forward in the realisation of INEOS’s plans to build an uncompromising 4×4, a new-from-the-ground-up vehicle built on all-new architecture, inspired by the off-road originals, such as the Willys Jeep, Series 1 Land-Rover and J40 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Offering no-frills utilitarianism, complete purity of purpose, unquestionable authenticity and ultimate engineering integrity, Projekt Grenadier will be a working 4×4 that will support a varied mix of customers around the world, from Africa to Australasia, Europe to the US.

Thanks to this technology partnership with BMW Group, INEOS Automotive will offer Projekt Grenadier buyers the best choice of powertrains, fusing durability and reliability with the latest innovations and emissions standards. With development ramping up, the engineering focus in Germany – working with partners MBtech – has been complemented by significant growth of the INEOS Automotive organisation in London, where the commercial, finance, supply chain, HR and IT teams now number 50 strong.

Dirk Heilmann, CEO of INEOS Automotive, said: “This technology partnership is a very significant milestone for Projekt Grenadier – we are delighted BMW Group will supply engines for our new off-roader. Its reputation as a maker of extremely reliable, high performance engines that offer total durability, efficiency and quality is second to none. Simply put, it builds the best engines in the world. Working with BMW Group is another major step forward in ensuring we deliver on our vision to build an uncompromising 4×4 with the ultimate in engineering integrity.”

ENDS

 

Media contacts:

projekt.grenadier@ineos.com

Ursula Heath (INEOS)                                     020 3793 8000 or 07979 507612

Andrew McLachlan (Media Zoo)                    020 7384 6980 or 07931 377162

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WELCOMING DR OLIVER FRILLE- DIRECTOR OF PROCUREMENT AND SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT

Oliver joined the Projekt Grenadier team on the 1st June 2018 to handle the rather significant Procurement side of the project. He’s responsible for overseeing, sourcing and managing all the materials going into the vehicle, as well as all other materials for the business – such as such as for marketing, sales, production or IT. He’s shared a few insights into his role, as well as his driving life.

Welcome, Oliver! Great to have you on board. That’s meaty a role you’ve got there…

Yes! I’ve been pretty busy from Day 1. I have a very small team reporting in to me at the moment, but we’re growing this summer and I hope we’ll eventually be about 30 people. There are many materials to manage in a project such as this, and most of all, a lot of relationships. Being a small team and a new startup, we’re operating a pretty lean business model, so are working with a wide array of specialized service providers to move the project along.

We’re talking big-picture stuff here, aren’t we?

Yes! This is a really critical building phase for the project, and we’re laying crucial foundations for the long term. My job involves identifying and selecting the best matching suppliers, and managing these over the whole project development phase- it’s a matter of constantly evaluating the robustness and efficiency of the supply chain, the cost, and also the quality of input and output so that we create the best vehicle we possibly can, which is reliable and affordable for our customers. Beyond the immediate INEOS Automotive employees, we’re trying to build an extended team who are excited and motivated by what we’re doing- and it’s really rewarding to see the broader enthusiasm behind this project so far.

What does a typical day involve for you?

Well, I’m based in Stuttgart where most of the project engineering is taking place- but I’m travelling often.  On an office-based day, I’ll spend most of it conducting project reviews, defining the measures for securing materials, trying to trim costs, and strategizing for the future. A travelling day will often involve travelling to a supplier, visiting a plant and evaluating tools, negotiating on various topics, and travelling home. There are never two days the same, though!

How did you come to this role?

I’ve got a broad background in Automotive and supply chain management, as well as a PhD in logistics. I studied business and industrial engineering in Berlin as the wall was coming down- a great time to be a student! I’ve worked in Procurement since then, and have had roles with Daimler and also SMART during their startup phase.

What drew you to working with Projekt Grenadier, in particular?

It’s a hugely exciting project! It’s still at a very young stage of development, which is a great time to contribute. There’s almost a blank sheet, with no pre-existing systems, so we can break the mould and do things differently, creatively, flexibly. It’s a great challenge.

Tell us a bit about your driving life…

Right now, I don’t get offroad very often- though have done some fantastic trips in my lifetime, including a great adventure in my 20s driving a Hanomag through the Sahara desert. Unforgettable. For now, I have to confess my preference is for fast German cars- but I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheels of Projekt Grenadier’s car, soon…

Oliver is now settled in and hard at work in Germany, building the team- if you have any interest in working in Procurement as the project progresses, do keep checking the Careers section of the website for postings.

Tags: IneosAutomotive – Announcements

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INEOS Automotive Announces Appointment of Mbtech as its Engineering Partner for Projekt Grenadier

German company MBtech, a former subsidiary of Mercedes Benz, has been awarded the engineering contract for INEOS Automotive’s planned 4×4, announced in September 2017 as Projekt Grenadier.

The appointment represents a significant step forward in the realisation of INEOS’s plans to build an uncompromising world class 4×4 vehicle.

Over 200 German engineers will be working full-time on the project in Stuttgart by spring 2018.

Dirk Heilmann, CEO of INEOS Automotive, said: “This deal will bring together German engineering and British design and entrepreneurship to create a truly formidable off roader.”


INEOS Automotive and German engineering company MBtech have struck a landmark deal which will see the companies officially partner to develop Projekt Grenadier’s vehicle. MBtech was founded in 1995 as Mercedes-Benz Technologies. Although the majority of its work remains with Mercedes-Benz, MBtech also works with a wide range of other automotive clients, including Porsche and BMW. The company will take the lead on overall vehicle development overseeing all components of the upcoming 4×4.

MBtech will begin work to take the initial design concepts through to a fully engineered vehicle and will be producing the first mule vehicles, followed by prototypes, later in 2018. It will be responsible for working up the exact specifications of the vehicle to ensure that it is a truly rugged, reliable and uncompromising 4×4.

The official partnership agreement was signed between INEOS Automotive CEO Dirk Heilmann and MBtech representatives in the historic Grenadier pub in Belgravia, the birthplace of the Projekt Grenadier concept. The partnership represents a major step forward for Projekt Grenadier, as automotive experts and engineers officially begin work on design and build to a tight project timeline.

By the spring, over 200 world-class engineers will be working full-time on the project near Stuttgart, Germany, one of the vehicle development capitals of Europe, complemented by significant growth of the INEOS Automotive team in London.

Dirk Heilmann, CEO of INEOS Automotive, said: “Today’s agreement represents a very exciting step for Projekt Grenadier. We have found a quality partner in MBtech who we believe have the competency, talent, and foresight to enable us to deliver a high-quality vehicle to the market. This deal will bring together German engineering and British entrepreneurship to create a truly formidable off roader.”

Alexander Quint, Head of Engineering at INEOS Automotive, said: “This agreement represents a great end to many months’ work securing the perfect partner for Projekt Grenadier’s development. We are working to create a very special car and it was essential for us to find the right partner. I believe MBtech’s reputation for quality, reliability and craftsmanship, alongside their long and proud history, make them the right choice. We have a supreme level of confidence in their engineering skills and know we have made the right decision.”

Henry Kohlstruck, Managing Director of MBtech, said: “All of us at MBtech are looking forward to getting involved in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a truly uncompromising off-road vehicle. The next six months are where the real work will begin as we take all the design variables into account. Our key competencies lie in developing SUVs and 4x4s, and we are very excited to be given such freedom and responsibility to help complete a fantastic automotive project.”

Work on the designing of the car can now officially begin, with a target agreement on the car’s specifications expected by mid-2018.

ENDS

Media contacts INEOS

Ursula Heath +44 203 793 8000 or +44 7979 507612

Andrew McLachlan (Media Zoo) +44 20 7384 6980 or +44 7931 377162

Joseph Moss (Media Zoo) +44 20 7284 698

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Ecurie Ecosse LM69 – Creating a Modern Racing Thoroughbred

What if…?

It’s a question that has dominated the history of the XJ13, a prototype built by Jaguar in 1966 in a quest to continue the marque’s legendary run of success in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Powered by a new quad-cam, 5-litre V12, the XJ13 was Jaguar’s first mid-engined car – and without doubt one of the most beautiful automotive designs of all time.

Sadly, it remained unraced. A combination of internal politics and a change in sporting regulations meant that it was banished to a corner of the Competition Department – mothballed and all but forgotten as other projects took priority.

But what if the XJ13 had been developed and raced? What if this car’s immense potential had been realised?

Picture the scene: one day in late 1967, members of Ecurie Ecosse – the famous Scottish race team that twice won Le Mans in the 1950s with Jaguar D-types – travel to the Browns Lane factory to discuss repeating that success. During their visit, they spot the XJ13, covered up and tucked away. But as soon as the covers come off, they know that they’ve got a potential winner on their hands.

A deal is done, and work begins on a two-year project to develop and build a car in order for Ecurie Ecosse to take on the might of Ford, Ferrari and Porsche at the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours.

This alternate reality could have been one of motor racing’s greatest stories – just imagine if the money, not to say courage and ambition, had been invested into it. Now a team of designers and engineers have done just that…

The birth of the Ecurie Ecosse LM69

Fifty years on, the spectacular LM69 is to be launched. While remaining true in spirit and sympathetic to the style of the fabulous XJ13, its bodywork has been developed into an all-new design that has its own purposeful beauty.

The quad-cam V12 is the heart of the car, a unique signature that has been designed to evoke the experience of driving at Le Mans in 1969. And not only is the LM69 suitable for track use, it’s fully road-legal.

A strict brief was established from the start: the design and engineering team would have to adhere to the regulations of the time, and feature only design details and technology that entered motorsport no later than early 1969.

As the XJ13 would have done had it been prepared for serious competition use, the LM69 benefits from innovations that appeared during that exciting era. Composite materials have been used, it’s lighter than the original car, and it boasts experimental aerodynamic devices, wider wheels and tyres, and a much-improved engine.

Only 25 will be produced, in keeping with the 1969 FIA homologation requirements and to maintain its exclusivity. Each one will be individually hand-built in the West Midlands by the best British craftsmen in their field.

Discover the Ecurie Ecosse LM69

The Ecurie Ecosse LM69 will be officially launched at the International Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, London on 6-8 September 2019.

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace will be home to more than 300 of the finest and rarest motor cars ever to be seen. The crown jewels of the automotive world – 1896 pioneers to present-day supercars including the LM69.

The Ecurie Ecosse presence at this year’s Concours of Elegance affords a rare opportunity to see and commission a piece of motoring history.

For further information, please visit: www.ecuriecars.com

  

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Ecurie Ecosse unveil line-up for LMP3 Cup title defence

Having dominated the inaugural Henderson Insurance Brokers LMP3 Cup Championship, Ecurie Ecosse are delighted to confirm its return to the series with Nielsen Racing as they seek to defend its impressive championship winning record with an adjusted driver line-up.

Colin Noble returns to the team, keen to add to the six victories he claimed alongside team director and driver Alasdair McCaig last year. The BRDC Rising Star will be joined by Tony Wells, someone very familiar to the team having finished second alongside Noble last year in the Michelin Le Mans Cup Championship.

“I’m really looking forward to the new year,” said Noble. “I know Tony well from our 2017 season successes in the Le Mans Cup and I know that Nielsen Racing will provide me with a car always capable of going for wins. I think we’ll be a very competitive pairing and we go into the championship with the aim of retaining the title.”

Wells competed with a rival team in the 2017 LMP3 Cup championship and proved to be Ecurie Ecosse’s biggest rival as he notched up an impressive four wins and four runner-up positions. The Northumberland-based driver is looking forward to joining the team for the 2018 campaign and extending his relationship with Ecurie Ecosse and Nielsen Racing.

“I’ve raced with Sven every year since he formed Nielsen and won both UK and European Radical Championship with him,” Wells began with reference to Team Manager David Thompson. “We have a long history together and won the first race together for the team in Dubai. I then recall first seeing Colin testing an SR1 at Cadwell where he was so impressive and has since gone from strength to strength. With all of these factors, it was a no brainer to race here this year and I believe we’re going to have a very successful season.”

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