Self-driving vehicles are no longer a thing of the future, as autonomous buses, taxis and cars are beginning to hit the road. And despite some hesitancy, there are signs that the public may be opening up to autonomous vehicles--as we recently reported, 62% of people surveyed believe autonomous vehicles are the way of the future, according to a consumer Mobility Report. COVID-19 has had a positive impact, as city planning and safety in public spaces haves forced many to reimagine the role of autonomous vehicles in our lives. Still, putting actual trust in these vehicles is still a major obstacle. While 52% of those surveyed say they are excited by the concept of autonomous vehicles, and 72% predict that most people will use them by 2041, they're not ready to get into one--yet.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing, though perhaps not as fast as the hype cycles would have us believe. But we are starting to see AI being applied to tasks typically done by humans, including more intelligent chatbots that can answer first- and even second-level customer service requests, smart software bots automating business process tasks and pilot projects involving autonomous vehicles. It is these vehicles that have captured the popular imagination. Proponents envision a world in which deaths caused by speeding, distracted driving, fatigue, drunk driving and other human errors can be dramatically reduced. This is a world of ride-sharing, a world where elderly and disabled populations gain mobility, a world where many people, particularly in urban centers, won't even buy cars anymore.
Nissan Motor Co. on Monday unveiled new autonomous driving technology designed to prevent accidents by detecting successive sudden moves by cars and pedestrians. Nissan will work to improve the technology further with the aim of installing it to new vehicles from the mid-2020s and to almost all vehicles by 2030. Using the LiDAR sensor system, a car with the technology can, for example, change lanes quickly to prevent a collision with a vehicle abruptly coming in front of the car and soon after that apply the brake to avoid hitting a pedestrian jumping into the road, according to Nissan. Current autonomous driving technologies can avoid accident risks one by one, but cannot deal with successive risk situations, Nissan officials said. Nissan substantially improved the performance of the LiDAR system to enable it to figure out the shapes of objects near the vehicle and measure the distances to the items and their movements accurately and instantly.
Autonomous driving is of great interest in both research and industry. The high cost has been one of the major roadblocks that slow down the development and adoption of autonomous driving in practice. This paper, for the first-time, shows that it is possible to run level-4 (i.e., fully autonomous driving) software on a single off-the-shelf card (Jetson AGX Xavier) for less than $1k, an order of magnitude less than the state-of-the-art systems, while meeting all the requirements of latency. The success comes from the resolution of some important issues shared by existing practices through a series of measures and innovations. The study overturns the common perceptions of the computing resources required by level-4 autonomous driving, points out a promising path for the industry to lower the cost, and suggests a number of research opportunities for rethinking the architecture, software design, and optimizations of autonomous driving.
Musk doesn't have a timetable for when this radar upgrade could happen, but he believes that it would produce at least "moderate" improvements in Autopilot (if not major ones) without requiring brand new hardware. Tesla has a strong financial motivation to pursue this strategy, as you might guess. It'd have to spend a lot to add lidar to cars, not the least of which might be significant redesigns to accommodate the sensor tech. If this goes forward, though, it could be a big deal. It still wouldn't make Autopilot foolproof, but it might mitigate (or even eliminate) a key weak point and make the hands-off system that much more trustworthy.