Quickie: Hexagon is going places

May 15, 2017 | Hot Topics

I’m about to board a flight, so this has to be quick: Hexagon just announced that it is acquiring VIRES, a company I’ve never heard of that makes softwate to simulate development, testing and validation of driver-assisted and fully autonomous driving technology. According to Hexagon, VIRES’ “simulation solutions have been recognised for their robustness, performance and ease of building simulation environments for over 20 years. Their worldwide customer list spans prominent automotive OEMs and suppliers as well as recent entrants to the automotive market to companies in the railway and aerospace industries and elite universities involved in shaping the future of mobility.”

Let’s think this through: Hexagon already has assets for 3D mapping, controls simulation (via MSC), sensors and other technologies that will enable it to put together a very credible autonomous vehicle operation and validation product. Then, they’ve already got a lot of farming, mining and construction customers, many of who are able to use autonomous vehicles today –let alone what Google, Apple, traditional auto makers, et al. are working on for us consumers. That’s a someday play; the industrial play is active today.

As is the case with many of its acquisitions (but not, certainly, MSC), VIRES will have no significant impact on Hexagon’s revenue or earnings.

And, even more briefly: I had a great follow-up conversation with Hexagon about its deal with Audi to supply its Command and Control solutions to manage the Ingolstadt production facility, This is a first-of-its-kind implementation, but one that is likely to be replicated elsewhere. Audi will use Intergraph’s products to gather and integrate sensor data (from cameras, badges, doors, etc.) to monitor and protect workers and property. I asked if this was going to be tied into production, and that doesn’t seem to be an initial goal, but it does seem an eventual possibility. After all, sending a fire and rescue team into a production facility is safer for everyone if the system also automatically shuts down gas and other production input supplies. Audi has just decided to do this; we’ll be watching as this develops.

UPDATE on VIRES acquisition: After I wrote this post, MSC Software released a statement about how it sees VIRES and autonomous vehicles. CEO Dominic Gallello said that “[w]e are just in the very early days of testing with confidence vehicles that need to reach “Level 5″ autonomy. There are still many challenges to be solved, much technology to be invented, and many more orders of magnitude of simulations to be performed than that what is currently being done. VIRES’ outstanding environmental simulation technology fits perfectly into our overall strategy of connecting the off-line, real-time, big data, and analytics technology-chain. With this acquisition, we will enable vehicles that are not only safe but that also retain the special driving characteristics of their brands.”