NetworkNewsWire Editorial Coverage: Self-driving cars are reliant on their sensors to see the world around them. After years of testing in favorable conditions, these cars are now being assessed in bad weather conditions.
- Self-driving cars use a wide variety of different sensors.
- Most testing has taken place until now in areas with good weather to work out the fundamentals of self-driving more easily.
- More manufacturers are now testing their self-driving cars in adverse weather conditions.
- This is revealing the strengths and weaknesses of different sensor systems.
Foresight Autonomous Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: FRSX) (TASE: FRSX) (FRSX Profile) has developed a sensor system that uses visible light and thermal imaging to see through fog, rain and snow, and has sold a prototype of the sensor to a leading global Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer. Thermal camera manufacturer FLIR Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLIR) has adapted its technology to the needs of self-driving cars and recently released data to help all manufacturers test the effectiveness of thermal sensors. Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) has established a subsidiary specializing in self-driving and was the first to carry out tests on snowy roads. Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), has established a self-driving technology center in Michigan for adverse weather testing. And critical software needed to support these essential sensors is being developed by companies such as nuTonomy, a subsidiary of autonomous vehicle specialist Aptiv PLC (NYSE: APTV).
Self-Driving Whatever the Weather
Self-driving cars are coming ever closer to actually hitting the roads, with major companies developing and testing completely autonomous vehicles. Some of the systems these vehicles will rely on are already in use, assisting drivers through features such as cruise control.
One of the biggest remaining obstacles standing in the way of marketing these vehicles is the weather. To date, much of the testing of these vehicles is taking place in a small number of areas with limited weather conditions, particularly the hot, dry desert of Arizona. This has been good for developing the fundamentals in relatively uncomplicated conditions, but now more thorough and varied testing is needed. People use their cars year-round in every country and climate. To be safe on the roads, a self-driving vehicle will have to be able to operate in severe weather conditions. As a result, the manufacturers behind self-driving cars have started testing the vehicles in a wider range of conditions. These tests are revealing the limits of some of the current sensor systems and making clear what adjustments will be needed.
Making Driving Safer
Self-driving vehicles are about more than just novelty or saving effort. They have the potential to save lives by removing human error.
Poor weather is responsible for 22 percent of crashes each year. High winds, fog, rain, snow and standing water can all lead to crashes if a driver doesn’t recognize and respond appropriately to the problems those conditions represent.
To truly save lives, autonomous vehicles must overcome those concerns. The technology that will make this happen is being developed all over the world, from design offices in California to factories in China to facilities owned by Foresight Autonomous Holdings (FRSX Profile) in Israel.
Testing in Tougher Environments
In the past few years, the big players in the American self-driving car game have started testing outside of their home ground. Ford has run tests on its self-driving Fusion car in Ann Arbor, Mich. Waymo has also started testing in Michigan while continuing to work in the sunnier climes of California, Texas and Arizona. Ride service Uber, always keen to cut its human resource costs, is testing cars in Pittsburgh.
Testing in tougher environments sets a challenge for self-driving cars on two levels. First is the vehicles’ ability to judge their circumstances and drive accordingly. Do the cars slow down appropriately on wet roads? Do they account for the reduced visibility of other drivers in fog? Can they avoid skidding in snow or mud and follow emergency procedures if their tires lose a grip on the road?
The second problem is more fundamental. Sensors made by companies such as Foresight are an autonomous vehicle’s eyes. They must work properly in all conditions, or a car’s self-driving equipment may be left blind.
Companies are testing a wide variety of sensors for their self-driving systems. Some, including Foresight, use passive sensors such as various vision sensors. Others use active systems that emit energy beams out into the world and sense obstacles based on reflected beams.
Of these active systems, radar can be a useful addition in tough conditions, as it cuts through rain, snow and fog. But it doesn’t provide a detailed understanding of a complicated environment and therefore can’t be used to direct a car on its own. Lidar has different challenges. It can build up a complex picture of the surrounding environment but is vulnerable to interference from the weather. The sensor sends out rapid pulses of infrared laser light to see what is nearby. If one of these lasers hits a raindrop or snowflake, the car will believe that there’s something right in front of it, leading to a sudden, potentially dangerous stop.
The Power of Thermal Imaging
If these sensors underperform in poor weather conditions, what other options are available? The solution may lie in the style of sensor arrays created by Foresight.
Foresight’s QuadSight sensor system uses two pairs of infrared/thermal and visible spectrum cameras. Far-infrared cameras are much less affected by adverse weather than other sensors. They can see through fog and rain, providing a better view of the environment than other sensors — or even the human eye. Combining this thermal data with information from the visible light spectrum means that QuadSight produces a powerful range of data for a self-driving car.
The potential of this technology has led to significant successes for Foresight. The company has sold several prototypes to automotive manufacturers, including a recent sale to a Chinese company. With China becoming one of the largest markets for electric and autonomous vehicles, this sale is a major coup for Foresight.
The Self-Driving Sensor Sector
Thermal camera manufacturer FLIR Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: FLIR) is keen to draw attention to the potential of these cameras for self-driving cars. The company produces thermal cameras with many uses, including in smartphones and drones. Its sensors are used in driver warning systems by General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The company recently released a free dataset of annotated thermal imagery to help researchers and designers create better equipment and evaluate the effectiveness of sensors.
One of the automotive industry greats, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) has invested heavily in self-driving vehicles. The company recently reaffirmed that commitment through the creation of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, a subsidiary designed to push forward its automated vehicle work and make the most of the market opportunities this sector provides. Ford has taken a lead in preparing self-driving vehicles for difficult weather conditions. In January 2016, it was the first company to test an autonomous vehicle on snow-covered roads, and its recent introduction of further testing in Michigan shows its determination to solve the problems weather creates.
Google’s parent company Alphabet, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is heavily involved in self-driving vehicles through its Waymo subsidiary. Like Ford, Waymo has made use of Michigan to test self-driving systems in difficult weather conditions, including rain, snow and sleet. The company’s self-driving technology center at Novi, set up in 2016, gives Waymo the chance to work with local tech talent to develop better sensors and driving systems. With its efforts to develop self-driving trucks as well as cars, Waymo has the potential to bring automation to commercial hauling as well as passenger travel.
Autonomous vehicle specialist Aptiv PLC (NYSE: APTV) is making significant advances in self-driving technology, not least through its nuTonomy subsidiary. While Aptiv is involved in various aspects of automation, nuTonomy specializes in software for driverless fleets. Such software is vital to safe self-driving, as it processes the information coming from sensors, thus allowing vehicles to make driving decisions. The recent opening of a new technology center in Boston will help Aptiv and nuTonomy to develop the cars of the future, capable of driving in all conditions.
As self-driving cars are tested in a wider range of driving conditions, they face new challenges. Some sensors are proving more useful than others in adverse weather, and this may decide what technology eventually guides these cars of the future.
For more information on Foresight Autonomous Holdings, visit Foresight Autonomous Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: FRSX) (TASE: FRSX)
NetworkNewsWire (NNW) is a financial news and content distribution company that provides (1) access to a network of wire services via NetworkWire to reach all target markets, industries and demographics in the most effective manner possible, (2) article and editorial syndication to 5,000+ news outlets (3), enhanced press release services to ensure maximum impact, (4) social media distribution via the Investor Brand Network (IBN) to nearly 2 million followers, (5) a full array of corporate communications solutions, and (6) a total news coverage solution with NNW Prime. As a multifaceted organization with an extensive team of contributing journalists and writers, NNW is uniquely positioned to best serve private and public companies that desire to reach a wide audience of investors, consumers, journalists and the general public. By cutting through the overload of information in today’s market, NNW brings its clients unparalleled visibility, recognition and brand awareness. NNW is where news, content and information converge.
For more information, please visit https://www.NetworkNewsWire.com
DISCLAIMER: NetworkNewsWire (NNW) is the source of the Article and content set forth above. References to any issuer other than the profiled issuer are intended solely to identify industry participants and do not constitute an endorsement of any issuer and do not constitute a comparison to the profiled issuer. The commentary, views and opinions expressed in this release by NNW are solely those of NNW. Readers of this Article and content agree that they cannot and will not seek to hold liable NNW for any investment decisions by their readers or subscribers. NNW is a news dissemination and financial marketing solutions provider and are NOT registered broker-dealers/analysts/investment advisers, hold no investment licenses and may NOT sell, offer to sell or offer to buy any security.
The Article and content related to the profiled company represent the personal and subjective views of the Author, and are subject to change at any time without notice. The information provided in the Article and the content has been obtained from sources which the Author believes to be reliable. However, the Author has not independently verified or otherwise investigated all such information. None of the Author, NNW, or any of their respective affiliates, guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any such information. This Article and content are not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular security or course of action; readers are strongly urged to speak with their own investment advisor and review all of the profiled issuer’s filings made with the Securities and Exchange Commission before making any investment decisions and should understand the risks associated with an investment in the profiled issuer’s securities, including, but not limited to, the complete loss of your investment.
NNW HOLDS NO SHARES OF ANY COMPANY NAMED IN THIS RELEASE.
This release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended and such forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. “Forward-looking statements” describe future expectations, plans, results, or strategies and are generally preceded by words such as “may”, “future”, “plan” or “planned”, “will” or “should”, “expected,” “anticipates”, “draft”, “eventually” or “projected”. You are cautioned that such statements are subject to a multitude of risks and uncertainties that could cause future circumstances, events, or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements, including the risks that actual results may differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, and other risks identified in a company’s annual report on Form 10-K or 10-KSB and other filings made by such company with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You should consider these factors in evaluating the forward-looking statements included herein, and not place undue reliance on such statements. The forward-looking statements in this release are made as of the date hereof and NNW undertakes no obligation to update such statements.