Israel Leads The Way To Driverless Cars
In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 sci-fi classic Total Recall, the protagonist gets into a heated argument with a self-driving cab, driven by an artificial intelligence-challenged automaton. The film takes place in 2084 on Mars. But fully autonomous cars will be a reality right here on Earth by 2021.
That, anyway, is Mobileye CEO Ziv Aviram’s vision of the not-too-distant future. Aviram founded Mobileye in 1999 with professor Amnon Shashua of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Their company is best known for inventing a technology to alert drivers to obstacles. Using that proprietary obstacle-sensing sensor system to gather millions of miles of driving data, Mobileye is working with many of the world’s biggest auto manufacturers to pave the way for self-driving cars and trucks.
“Autonomous cars are not a dream anymore. It’s not a matter of if. It’s matter of when,” he said.
The first of three phases, he said, was the advent of semi-autonomous driving, which is already available in some cars today, including Tesla’s Model S. Drivers can push an “auto- pilot” button when they’re on the highway, and the car will remain in its lane and avoid other vehicles. But the driver must still remain attentive, and the technology is not suited for city driving.
By 2018, the next phase, called automated driving, will be available. That system, which will require three cameras, will allow drivers to focus on other things during highway driving.
By 2021, Aviram said, he anticipates fully autonomous cars will hit the road. For that, he said, a much wider array of sensors will be necessary: “We think you need eight cameras, four corner radars and additional configurations of LEEDR [Laser Environmental Effects Definition and Reference] sensors and sonars.”
Together those different cameras and sensors will create enough redundancy in data that the system will be able to gauge the environment with “99.9999 percent” accuracy.
Mobileye also wants driverless cars to have an idea of where the road is leading—an accurate map of what’s over the horizon or around the corner. To do that, the company has put to use the visual data on 14 million kilometers (almost 8.7 million miles) of highways its cameras have recorded, creating a crowd-sourced map. “The supplier that eventually has the map of the road will control the market,” Aviram said.
The last element needed for autonomous cars is what Aviram calls “driving policy,” which refers not just to rules and regulations but interactions between drivers. For example, if four people reach an intersection at the same time, it’s generally not a problem; a combination of eye contact, flashing headlights, or just subtle movements can indicate who has the right of way. Computers might just wait forever for a break in traffic if they don’t have ways to navigate human behavior.
“The reason that we need to teach the computer driving policy is that autonomous driving is not going to be presented in one day. The transition will take at least two decades. So from 2021, the autonomous cars will drive alongside humans, who don’t always follow the rules of the road. They’ll need to understand how to merge into traffic,” he explained.
Aviram takes a multi-year perspective. His vision of reshaping the world through a technology that will revolutionize everything from commuting to shipping is driving Mobileye full speed ahead.
by Niv Elis
The Jerusalem Post