As reported by Wired: More than any other benefit, self-driving vehicles promise to save lives. Cutting out the human error that causes 90 percent of crashes could start to save some of the 35,000 lives lost on American roads every year. Manufacturers are convinced that people will happily use at least partially autonomous cars when they’re proven to be safer than human drivers, but that’s a pretty low bar. The ultimate goal is to eliminate crashes all together, and to do that, cars will need to perfectly perceive and understand the world around them—they'll need superhuman senses.
Pretty much every AV now in testing uses some combination of cameras, radars, and lidar laser systems. But now, an Israeli startup wants to add a new tool to the mix: heat-detecting infrared cameras that can pick out pedestrians from hundreds of feet away.
A fully driverless car, after all, will need to see the world in a wide variety of lighting and weather conditions. “Existing sensors and cameras available today can’t meet this need on their own,” said AdaSky CEO, Avi Katz, in a statement. So this morning, his company announced its plan to offer automakers what it calls Viper, a long distance infrared camera and accompanying computer vision system.
Today's sensors offer a detailed view of the world in 360 degrees, but each has its weak points. Cameras don’t work well at nighttime, or in dazzling sunlight. Lidar has trouble with rain, fog, and dust, because the laser bounces off the particles in the atmosphere. Radar can be confused by small but highly reflective metal objects, like a soda can in the street.
Even systems that combine data from all three sensors can struggle with images of humans on billboards, or on adverts on other vehicles, as recently shown by Cognata, which simulates training environments for driverless car brains. That’s where AdaSky thinks its sensor can pitch in. If a human-shaped object is giving off heat, it’s probably a real person, not a picture.