If Santa had an Autonomous Sleigh

If Santa had an Autonomous Sleigh

Andrew Macleod, Director of Automotive Marketing for Mentor, a Siemens business


Christmas Eve is always a special, if exhausting, day each year for Santa Claus. So this year, Santa had an idea to make his holiday duties a bit less stressful: using autonomous driving technology.


Delivering gifts to children around the world in less than 24 hours is a lot of work, after all. And by partnering with Siemens, Santa developed an ambitious plan to exponentially boost the efficiency of his worldwide gift delivery operation.


Here’s how:


Elevating the team


Santa analyzed his toy manufacturing and delivery practices and found that he’s been under-utilizing an extremely valuable resource: his team of hard-working, loyal elves. By offloading some of his Christmas Eve deliveries to his team of elves, he could dramatically boost the efficiency of his operation.

But despite their legendary proficiency in toy making, elves are notoriously bad drivers. Sure, they can slide down chimneys and deliver gifts, but Santa knows that relying on elf-driven sleighs for the delivery of presents is simply too unreliable—not to mention unsafe.


Enter Siemens and its autonomous driving technologies. Santa and Siemens have redesigned his sleigh from the ground up, with autonomous flying in mind, allowing him to focus less on steering and more on higher value tasks, such as organizing the presents.


The new design incorporates special LIDAR, radar and camera sensors, which capture raw, unfiltered sensor data as the sleigh travels across the sky (and atop the roof of children’s homes around the world). The raw sensor data from each sensor is then fed into the Mentor DRS360 autonomous driving platform, where it is fused in real time. The result is a high resolution, 360-degree perception of his sleigh’s surroundings at all times. The sleigh’s driving decision algorithms and steering actuators nimbly navigate the vehicle as it travels across the globe autonomously. (Of course, reindeer remain unparalleled in their ability to actually power any flying sleigh design, so they are still essential to the design.)


Virtual sleigh testing


Once the self-driving sleigh prototype was perfected, Santa invested in the creation of an entire fleet—one for himself and another for each elf. Imagine the efficiency!

But wait—how does Santa know his new ride is safe? That it will actually work as designed? In fact, this is a major challenge for the development of autonomous cars, as well. According to the findings of a report issued by the Rand Corporation, autonomous automobile prototypes would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles, and in some cases hundreds of billions of miles, over the course of several decades to demonstrate their reliability in terms of fatalities and injuries – an outcome the authors deemed inconsistent with the near-term commercial viability of self-driving cars.


Luckily, Siemens is able to help here, too. Siemens’ Simcenter Prescan simulation environment minimizes the need for extensive physical prototyping while dramatically reducing the number of logged test miles necessary to demonstrate the safety of autonomous cars—and sleighs. It produces highly realistic, physics-based simulations of an unlimited number of potential driving scenarios, flying situations and other parameters, so Santa can rely on an autonomous flying system that can travel safely to its destination, without worrying about accidents.


And since he can test billions of scenarios with the Simcenter PreScan simulation environment within a very limited amount of time, his self-driving sleigh will surely be prepared for the most expected and unexpected occurrences, including harsh weather conditions and other hazards.


Best of luck to Santa and his team as they prepare for their big night. And Happy Holidays to all from Siemens!


Published On: December 19th, 2018