WILL DRIVERLESS CARS IMPACT SOCIETY AND THE WAY PEOPLE COMMUTE 3
the lasers and onboard cameras are processed in the vehicle’s computer sys
tem and software(2012). Sykes confirms
that “the system can make decisions quickly and controls the steering,acceleration, and braking with incredible speed” (2012).
As this technology progresses, societywill someday experience transportation as never seen before.Others are in agreement. According to researchers for the National Research Foundationof Korea, vehicles with autonomous systems will sense their environment and will navigate to its
destination “without aid from a h
(Kim, Yoon, Yu, & Kang, 2012, p. 761). They go on tosay
that the integrated systems are comprised of “
for position estimation;
for adjusting direction and speed;
, for perceiving thesurrounding environment; and
cognitive/decision making technology
to determine vehiclemovement
Kim, Yoon, Yu, & Kang, 2012, p. 761). Through their computer systems,autonomous cars will easily navigate their way through traffic on highways and streets.But the systems within the automobile are just the beginning. Highway and roadinfrastructure surrounding the driving vehicle will also play a great role. Thomas Frey, futuristspeaker for Google, describes
our highways of today as “dumb surfaces’ with virtually no data
flowing between the vehicles and the road its
(2013, p. 38). But they will become so muchmore. The roads will talk to cars and vice versa. Frey explains that computers onboard thevehicle will retrieve and send information from the road through cameras and laser sensors,
logging information on road conditions as quickly as “10 times per second” through transmitters
(2013, p. 39). Thus, in time, we will experience our roads and our cars streaming information back and forth, from road to vehicles, vehicles to road.
Apple's work on self-driving cars has been more secretive than just about every other project in the autonomous car space — but now, two of the company's scientists have published some of their auto-focused research for the first time.
The paper, authored by Apple engineers Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel and published in the independent journal arXiv, details a new computer imaging software technique called "VoxelNet" that could improve a driverless car system's ability to detect pedestrians and cyclists.
The scientists claim their new method could be even more effective than the two-tiered LiDAR and camera systems that have become the industry standard for object detection in self-driving cars. Those expensive systems depend on cameras to help determine the small or faraway objects (like pedestrians or cyclists) detected by LiDAR sensors, which use light beams to detect and map 3D obstacles in the world around the the vehicle.
SEE ALSO: Uber just made its biggest move yet to adopt self-driving cars
The VoxelNet system — which was named after the "voxel" unit of value for a point in a three-dimensional grid — eliminates the need for a camera to help identify the objects detected by LiDAR sensors, allowing the autonomous platform to work on LiDAR alone. The scientists tested the software using models that showed pedestrians, cyclists, and other faraway objects.
The new technique was only tested in computer simulations, so Apple will still need to put VoxelNet to the test on the streets IRL before it can actually remove the cameras from its self-driving platform. The initial results were called "highly encouraging," however, so it might not be too long before the system described in the public research is put into use, by Apple or some other self-driving projects.
It's rare for Apple to show its hand by publishing research or explaining products before an official launch, but self-driving development is a different space for the iPhone maker. Public testing, which is essential to autonomous systems, requires government oversight, so public documents like state permits have tipped the company's hand.
It's hard to hide a fully equipped self-driving car from being spotted on public roads, too. Apple's rig has reportedly been identified twice, even though rumors claim its driverless platform could be relegated to use for an employee shuttle bus to start.
We reached out to Apple for comment on how the new LiDAR-only object detection system might be implemented, but haven't heard back. We'll update the story if we get a response.