Automated and self-driving vehicles are slowly becoming a normal, everyday, thing. Once this finally happens the sensors inside the cars will be very crucial. Foresight Autonomous Holdings is working on a new sensor structure that will utilize numerous lights and infrared sensors that'll use stereoscopic tech to detect the atmosphere around it. The owner of Google, Alaphabet, is also instituting a new variety of sensors in their autonomous cars which, along with their other sensors, will give the car a better understanding of its surroundings. Meanwhile Ford is looking into how drivers will use their vehicles in the future by using their new app called Chariot to help control systems for commuters. General Motors is moving towards full production with cars that will utilize LIDAR which will sense the area around the car. And at Tesla they have been focusing on pattern recognition as a way for their senors to recognize the space around cars.
The Variety of Sensors
Autonomous vehicles - more often referred to as self-driving cars and trucks - are close to becoming a regular feature of the world's streets. Several companies, automotive insiders, and tech innovators like Valeo and Bosch are working on the technology needed to make them a reality. From complex driving software to steering equipment, an industry is growing in the cars of the future.
Among the most important features of these cars are the sensors they use to read the world around them. These fall into two groups - passive and active. Active sensors project energy into the world and then use the reflections they get back to understand what's there. Passive sensors using energy that's already in the world, particularly light or heat. There are a variety of sensors of each type being tested, and a variety of different technologies that could come out on top. But the most important distinction may be whether the sensors we get are active or passive.
A Focus on Sensors
Specialist companies have started to emerge in this field, focusing entirely on car sensor technology. One of these is Foresight Autonomous Holdings Ltd.
Founded in 2015, Foresight is committed to designing, developing, and commercializing a range of sensor systems and associate technologies for use in autonomous vehicles. This includes stereo and quad camera systems and the software that will allow a car to interpret the signals from those cameras. These can be used to help avoid accidents between cars and will eventually allow self-driving cars to see and act on objects in their surrounding environment.
The company has already drawn attention with its advanced technology. It has acquired leading investors from the local automotive industry and reached a market cap of $100 million as of January 2018. It was featured in CNBC's article on "What Driving Will Look Like in 2028." Resources to continue its ambitious research and development program was assured by the recent announcement of a merger agreement with Tamda Ltd.
Foresight's leading product is the QuadSight system. This drew positive press attention when it was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.
One of the distinctive features of the QuadSight system is that it doesn't rely on pattern recognition to identify when there is an obstacle in its way. Any object can be detected, regardless of its material, color or shape. This gives the system an advantage over competitors whose sensors have to be programmed or trained to identify specific hazards.
The Power of Passive Sensors
QuadSightis based on passive rather than active sensors. Its cameras don't project any sort of energy into the world, but instead absorb the light that's already available, some of it invisible to the human eye. Passive sensors have two major benefits over active sensors.
One of the most serious problems with active sensors is interference. As a growing number of autonomous vehicles hit the streets, the number of sensors increases. As long as they use active sensors, this means an increase is the amount of energy being put out into the world by these sensors. As a result, they can end up interfering with each other, and this problem is only going to grow while people uses active sensors. This could lead to objects with low radar cross sections going undetected.
Although active sensors are certified according to safety regulations and are thus safe, it is important to keep in mind that each device is certified as a separate unit. At this stage, it is too early to measure the effects of energy exposure emitted by hundreds of vehicles and road infrastructure on road users. Active sensors (especially radars) might pose a health hazard.
QuadSight's sensors don't project any sort of energy. As such, they are unaffected by the interference problem and don't contribute to it. This makes QuadSight a more reliable option than many others available.
"At Foresight, we believe that a car's vision system should be nothing less than perfect," said Haim Siboni, CEO of Foresight. "Vision is the foundation of passenger safety, and vision perfection under all weather and lighting conditions is clearly the breakthrough that vehicle makers need to build consumer confidence in order to accelerate autonomous vehicle adoption."
Autonomous Vehicle Market Heats Up
As the potential of driverless cars grows, a number of companies are making advances in the sector.
Google's parent company Alphabet, Inc. is exploring the potential of automated vehicles through its subsidiary Waymo. It is experimenting with a wide range of sensors on its vehicles, including active sensors such as sonar, lasers, lidar, and radar, and stereo cameras on the passive side. One of the distinct features of Waymo's cars is the way that these different sensors are used together, each contributing something different to the car's understanding of the world around it.
Ford is approaching the future of driving from a different angle. Its acquisition of Chariot has put it in the business of providing transport to busy commuters, who can book rides in Chariot vehicles. An app lets its users book a ride with Chariot and propose new routes for the vehicles. Such apps could eventually be used to provide access to driver-less transport, with vehicles following pre-programmed routes to pick up travelers without cars of their own.
General Motors has announced that it will begin mass production of its first autonomous vehicle next year. The design of the Cruise AV was acquired by the company in 2016 when it absorbed startup Cruise Automation. The car will have a dedicated production line of its own at a facility at Orion Township, integrating LIDAR sensors produced at its Brownstone plant. When a powerhouse like GM starts mass production of self-driving cars, it's a sure sign that these vehicles will soon be a major feature of our streets.
The company most recognized for its work in self-driving cars is Tesla, Inc. Like other companies, it is using a range of different sensors, including visible light cameras. The information is processed using pattern recognition software, which looks for familiar shapes and colors to identify hazards. Though it has suffered some setbacks due to accidents, Tesla is still leading the way in both developing and publicizing the potential of self-driving vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles are soon to be a crucial portion of how we move and transport ourselves around the world. The many different kind of senors, and the technological approaches as well, will give customers and clients the chance to see which one will be the best for the future.
Edited by M. Hunt
Join us in Miami from the 20th to the 22nd of June for the Global Online Marketplaces Summit. Our summit theme is From Classifieds to Marketplaces – Capturing Value from the Transaction and we’ll hear from Global Leaders who are creating the Online Marketplaces of Tomorrow.