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Industrial Sensing, Lidar, Radar & Digital Cameras: the Eyes of Autonomous Vehicles

Bill Marshall
Engineer, PhD, lecturer, freelance technical writer, blogger & tweeter interested in robots, AI, planetary explorers and all things electronic. STEM ambassador. Designed, built and programmed my first microcomputer in 1976. Still learning, still building, still coding today.


January 3, 2019 08:54

Why not have several independent processors running each side of the vehicle. The Raspberries and similar processors could be used or something similar in a more rugged form. Then use a mother computer to process all this information and then drive some computers to execute the functions.
My question and worry are, what if you have 50 cars on the road, all using the same radar/ laser frequencies. Won't the vehicles get confused with all the signals bouncing and running around?
Take some ideas from the Star Trek movies. They used several different computers to run different function. Science Fiction can sometimes end in Science Fact.
Just some loose ideas.

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January 7, 2019 08:40

@thabatao Modern cars are already full of computers - electronic control units or ECUs - and I've no doubt future autonomous vehicles will feature an integrated network of smart sensors. The network will have to feature redundancy for safety, perhaps based on an Industrial version of Ethernet such as EtherCat. Some non-critical systems may use Arduino- or Raspberry Pi-type processors, others such as the lidar/radar sensors will use the mind-bogglingly powerful products from, for example, nVidia and Renesas. We don't know yet whether these computers will be powerful enough to perform reliable object detection, classification and tracking in real-time. That's because for all the hype, current AI algorithms are just not good enough. There could be a problem with lidar/radar signal confusion on a crowded road, but use of a narrow scanning beam reduces the likelihood of a false detection. Intelligence built in to the sensing system allows adaptive gating or windowing of the received signal. In other words unexpected returns can be ignored. The transmitted signal can also be coded uniquely. Exciting times ahead....

March 28, 2018 08:13

You can build a reasonable semi-automatic systems with a wide angle Front Facing camera for detecting signals/signs, a wide angle Back Facing camera for detecting car lane changes, an inexpensive Front Facing 120 degrees solid-state Lidar for detecting cars/pedestrians along with an existing GPS system with an mems based inertial navigation chipset for few meters road accuracy. This will still require some form of human intervention 75% of the time. It is almost impossible to make a consumer grade system which is accurate 100% of the time, since roads haven't any fixed rules as such and changes can happen (due to the behavior of several multiple drivers, road densities and mix of automated/non-automated vehicles) which can confuse any fully automated system resulting in harm & possibly death. The reason you have fly by wire in planes is because of extremely strict rules in the air, extremely trained drivers & low (KM spacing) densities. Even then when planes land in airports (which again have very strict rules on the ground), the pilot takes them to the plane ports.

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March 12, 2018 08:43

A very nice article out the many things that is needed for autodriving. I just wanted to mention snow on the road - how would one handle that. Where I live - in Denmark - we normally have at little snow. But even the small ammount of snow makes it difficult to be a human driver. And at times when we get alot of snow (in Danish terms) we have all white landscapes.
Just a thought about autodriving in the nordic countries.

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March 7, 2018 12:08

Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communication is the subject of a great deal of debate. Systems are being developed and the US government allocated the 5.9GHz band. The trouble is, that band is also used by WiFi, network providers want to use it for fast Internet and some car makers say that autonomous cars won't need it anyway. There is intense competition to establish a 'standard' protocol perhaps based on 5G technology or modified WiFi based on IEEE 802.11p. A 'low-cost' proposal I saw a couple of years ago capitalised on the increasing use of LED lamps on cars. Brake light LEDs on one car could be modulated with a data signal warning the car behind of its intentions. Human drivers would of course be unaware of the modulation. One thing's for sure, no global standard has emerged yet.

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March 5, 2018 13:57

Fascinating but how about something low tech for all vehicles on the road. A “Collision Avoidance System”, similar to the system used in aircraft and shipping but without the radar requirement. It could be a digital radio transponder that would broadcast the vehicles position, speed and direction as well as receiving the same from local vehicle transponders, perhaps incorporated into a satellite navigation device since that would have the necessary data, but with no display of other vehicles to distract the driver, a warning announcement would be all that is required. I assume a digital radio system would be required running a protocol that probably exists as FM transmissions from each vehicle on the same frequency would be unintelligible, at least that is my limited understanding of radio communication. I hope this system could be developed without a roadside component as this would frighten off some who worry about “Big Brother” watching them. Could it be realised as a Design Spark project?

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