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Intel’s Mobileye has a plan to dominate self-driving — and it might work, Ars Technica

Intel’s Mobileye has a plan to dominate self-driving — and it might work, Ars Technica


      Level 2 and beyond –

             

Mobileye made a self-driving car that only uses cameras — no lidar or radar.

      

      Jan 12, (4:) PM UTC

  

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Mobileye doesn’t have Elon Musk’s star power or Google’s billions. But it has something that’s arguably even more important: a dominant position in today’s market for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Mobileye had avery public splitwith Tesla back in (**************************************************************, but it continues to do business with a lot of other carmakers. Mobileye says it shipped (********************************************************************************. 4 million systems last year, which means (********************************************************************************. 4 million customers bought cars with Mobileye’s cameras, chips, and software.

In aTuesday speechat the Consumer Electronics show, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua made clear just how big of a strategic advantage this is. He laid out Mobileye’s vision for the evolution of self-driving technology over the next five years. And he made it clear that he envisions Mobileye staying at the center of the industry.

“Level 2 ”

Enlarge

/

2359 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise engaged.

Cadillac************************** For the last two years, we’ve2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise engaged.touted Cadillac’s Super Cruise

Second, Cadillac has pre-mapped more than

, 02 miles of freeways in the US and Canada. The system will only engage on those roads, which makes it much less likely that the system will get confused and make a dangerous mistake.

In his Tuesday speech, Mobileye’s Shashua calls ADAS systems with high-definition maps, like Super Cruise, “Level 2 ” – a small step above regular ADAS systems that are called “level 2” in thefive-level SAE framework. A number of carmakers have developed similar systems. Shashua says Mobileye is supplying the technology for 90 percent of them, including systems from Nissan, Volkswagen, and BMW .

As it sells its technology to carmakers, Mobileye has bargained for access to sensor data from customer vehicles. Shashua says that Mobileye is already collecting data from Volkswagen, BMW, and Nissan vehicles. He says three other unnamed carmakers have also agreed to participate.

The scale of this program is massive. Mobileye says it is already collecting 6 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) of sensor data every day from vehicles on public roads. Mobileye expects to have more than 1 million vehicles in its European fleet by the end of (**********************************************************, and 1 million American vehicles the following year.

The company uses all this data to generate detailed, high-definition maps of the areas where the cars drive. Mobileye says it already has software that can automatically generate HD maps of roads above miles per hour. The company expects to extend this capability to all roads next year. Mobileye expects to have all of Europe mapped by March, with America being fully mapped later in the year.

This is significant because gathering high-definition map data has been a major obstacle to deploying self-driving technology. In the past, companies had to build these maps by hand by paying workers to drive mapping cars along every street and then having a second group of humans hand-annotate the collected data. If Mobileye can crowdsource and automate this process, the resulting data will easily be worth billions of dollars.

Once Mobileye has assembled all this data into an HD map, it can send up-to-date map tiles back out to cars in its fleet. As a result, each of Mobileye’s partners — Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, and others who haven’t been made public yet — will be able to offer Super Cruise-like “Level 2 ” ADAS features without needing their own fleet of map- making cars.

Camera-only self-driving2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise engaged.Enlarge

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Shashua also believes that full autonomy will come to taxi fleets first. And he’s determined not to let Mobileye be left behind. So in addition to its “Level 2 ” products, the company is also working on a longer-term project to build fully self-driving technology. This week, Mobileye showed off a self-driving vehicle that can drive entirely based on 16 cameras. It had no radar, lidar, or other sensors.

An

************** (impressive video) shows this Mobileye prototype driving through the chaotic streets of Jerusalem for 45 minutes. The car navigates complex intersections, merges into tightly packed lanes, and deftly avoids hitting other vehicles.

Lidar skeptics might claim vindication here, but Shashua isn’t planning to actually ship a car without radar or lidar. Instead, the camera-only car is part of Mobileye’s larger strategy for building safe self-driving systems.

Mobileye’s plan is to build two completely independent self-driving systems: one based entirely on cameras, the other based on radar and lidar . If Mobileye can prove that each individual system can travel for more than (**********************************************************************************, hours between crashes, Mobileye argues , then a system with both sets of sensors should be able to travel for (million hours) ******************************************************************************, (times) ************************************************************************************, 02) without a crash. This latter figure would make Mobileye’s cars significantly safer than a human driver.

I wasA Mobileye self-driving car in Israel.skepticalof this math when Mobileye first announced it two years ago, and I haven’t changed my mind since. Mobileye seems to assume that the two systems’ failure modes are statistically independent, and it’s hard to see how that could be true. It seems pretty likely that scenarios that confuse a camera-based system are more likely to confuse a lidar-based one.

Even still, redundancy is an important principle in any safety-critical system. Camera- and lidar-based systems will surely have somewhat different failure modes. So building separate self-driving stacks around different sensors and then running them in parallel should yield a margin of safety — even if Mobileye’s math is too optimistic.

Mobileye’s belief in redundancy is evident in the design of its – camera self-driving system. The company has assembled a suite of six different algorithms for detecting objects around the car:

(****************************************** One algorithm is tuned to identify wheels and infer vehicle locations based on that. Mobileye also has a dedicated algorithm to identify car doors, since open doors are often a sign of potential safety issues. (********************************** Another algorithm uses “visual lidar” “—By comparing images from different cameras, the algorithm can infer a distance for each pixel in an image. The algorithm then uses these estimates to generate a three-dimensional point cloud like you would get from a lidar sensor. Mobileye’s software then applies standard software designed for lidar data to try to identify objects in the scene.


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