Monday, December 12, 2011

Vertical road alignments designed by the CLOUD

Wow! What is coming next? I uploaded the existing ground profile to the Cloud and it came back with the the road completly designed and a report was included. If I send a dollar to the CLOUD I wonder if it would send $100 back?

Ok, the truth is, it does send back a vertical alignment and it is optimized to meet minimum, maximum grade and pvi matching can be set.

Install the software from Autodesk Labs. Project Silverstar for AutoCAD Civil 3D This software will be located in the Toolspace under the Toolbox. Profile Optimization. Login to subscription and create a login into the Autodesk Cloud.

Right click to start this new utility. Login to the Autodesk Cloud (Existing ground profile is required) **Make sure a design speed is provided.

Set minimum and maximum grades, toggle matching PVI's.

Set PVI intensity, and notice
Maximum Solving Time.

BAM! The Cloud has received the data. All we have to do is wait for the return email. I planned on posting the results so I set the maximum time to 1 minute. Unfortunately it has been 1/2 hour and I have not received an email. Going to bed and will post the results tomorrow.

The results were returned from the cloud in about 1.5 hours. I have posted the Report, XML, and the ASCII file on the Autodesk CLOUD. Did you expect anything else? It only takes a second to view or download.
PDF report -
XML file -
ASCII file -

I believe this utility has a lot of potential. I would like it to ask for all PVI elevations that I have to match. Main roads, secondary roads etc. This utility is very similar to the best fit profile utility with a couple more options. Given the time it takes to return the design I believe this is more of a introduction to the Cloud then a program I can utilize at this time. Below are the steps to create a Best Fit Design Profile.
*See image below for best fit profile utility.

The team at Autodesk Labs is very responsive to all feedback. I cannot encourage you enough to share your expectations or obstacles. Below is the feedback that was returned to me.

Dear Mr. Studer,

Thank you for the valuable feedback. If you do not mind, I would be happy to discuss Project Silverstar further with you, in order to get more feedback?

First about the delay. I quickly looked at the log files on the cloud. Unfortunately, your job with the short solving time was just queued up behind some longer jobs. This is why you didn’t receive an answer quickly. We are working on improving our load-balancing to avoid such situations in the future as best as possible.

(I suggested the ability to add more PVI's)
Adding more PVI is a feature that we actually thought about already. I don’t think it would be a major problem to add this on the cloud side. On the client side (wizard), how would you, from a user perspective, best like to enter the PVI information? Would a list similar to the one for borrow/waste pits be a solution? One problem with such a list is that a user could potentially enter PVI’s that will conflict with other design constraints (minimum tangent length, grade constraints, etc.). Designing a user interface that takes that into account without confusing the user would be nice, but can be tricky. If you have any ideas or suggestions in this respect, please let me know.

As for the similarities with the best fit utility, SilverStar works actually quite different. The Best Fit utility tries to find a profile that fits the ground as close as possible. This can be computed very fast. SilverStar, on the other hand, tries to find a profile that minimizes total earthwork costs (cut, fill, load, and especially hauling), subject to a set of design constraints. From a computational perspective, this is a hard problem which requires significantly more computation time than Best Fit. This is one of the reason that the SilverStar algorithm is in the Cloud.

I hope this explains some of the issues. I am looking forward to get more feedback from you in order to get SilverStar more usable.

Thank you very much,
Valentin Koch
Principal Research Engineer
Autodesk Inc.

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