Intel and Mobileye have developed a pair of new sensors for autonomous vehicles, with the aim of reducing the price of radar and LIDAR and helping to drive driverless cars that can train each other to deal with new locations. Announced at CES 2021, the new sensors seek to address one of the biggest obstacles to making autonomous vehicles more prevalent, reducing the cost of the comprehensive sensor suites they use to see the world around them.
This has been a barrier, even with advances in solid-state LIDAR and other types of sensors. Although we are a long way from the huge laser spinning rangefinders mounted on top of previous autonomous vehicle prototypes, the reality is that even a handful of modern LIDAR sensors can greatly increase a vehicle’s material list.
It is an area in which Intel, and its autonomous technology subsidiary Mobileye, believe that a breakthrough has been made. A so-called LIDAR SoC will place active and passive laser elements on a silicon chip, with the resulting “photonic integrated circuit” having 184 vertical scanning lines, moved through the optics. The result is a potentially much simplified manufacturing process and smaller assembly.
Intel says that LIDAR SoC is expected to be deployed in autonomous Mobileye vehicles by 2025. At the same time, it is also developing a software-defined image radar system. This combines 2,304 channels, a dynamic range of 100DB and a lateral lobe level of 40 DBc, says Mobileye, “to build a detection state good enough for the driving policy to support autonomous driving.”
Mobileye’s approach to replacing human drivers begins with a camera as the primary sensor. However, it then overlaps with radar and LIDAR, working both to increase the analysis of the highway based on cameras and to act as redundant systems in case of difficulties.
An advantage of the company is that Mobileye is already a supplier of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to automakers. This, says the company, means that there are already almost 1 million vehicles on the road that act as automated cartographers. Nearly 5 million miles of roads are being tracked every day, apparently.
“To demonstrate the scalable benefits of these automatic AV maps, Mobileye will begin directing its AVs in four new countries without sending specialized engineers to these new locations,” said Intel today. “Instead, the company will send vehicles to local teams that support Mobileye customers. After proper safety training, these vehicles will be able to drive. This approach was used in 2020 to allow antivirus to start driving in Munich and Detroit in a few days. “
This differs considerably in approach from most rivals working on autonomous vehicles. This would normally involve mapping high-definition areas where driverless cars would be deployed, so that any new autonomous vehicles have pre-existing knowledge of the road network and potential danger areas.