Intel and Mobileye have developed a pair of new self-propelled vehicle sensors designed to lower the price of radar and LIDAR and help power off-road vehicles that can train each other to deal with new locations. Announced at CES 2021, the new sensors aim to tackle one of the biggest barriers to making autonomous vehicles more prevalent by lowering the cost of the comprehensive sensor suites they use to see the world around them.
It’s been a barrier for a long time, even with advances in solid-state LIDAR and other sensor types. Although we are a long way from the vast, rotating range of laser-finders mounted to the top of earlier autonomous vehicle prototypes,
It is an area in which Intel and its self-driving tech subsidiary Mobileye believe that a breakthrough has been made. The so-called LIDAR SoC will place active and passive laser elements on the silicone chip, with the resulting “photonic integrated circuit” having 184 vertical lines of scanning moving through optics. The result is a potentially much more streamlined manufacturing process and a smaller assembly.
Intel argues that LIDAR SoC is expected to be deployed in Mobileye Autonomous Vehicles by 2025. At the same time, a software-defined radar imaging system is also being developed. This combines 2304 channels, 100DB dynamic range, and 40DBc side lobe level.
Mobileye’s approach to replacing human drivers starts with a camera as a primary sensor. However, it then shifts to radar and LIDAR, working both to increase the camera-based roadway analysis and to act as redundant systems should it struggle.
One advantage of the company is that Mobileye is already a supplier of advanced driver assistance (ADAS) systems to automakers. That, the company says, means that almost 1 million vehicles are already on the road, acting as automated cartographers. Almost 5 million miles of roads are being tracked every day, apparently.
“To demonstrate the scalable benefits of these automatic AV maps, Mobileye will start driving its AVs in four new countries without sending specialized engineers to these new locations,” said Intel today. “The company will instead send vehicles to local teams supporting Mobileye customers. These vehicles will be able to drive after proper safety training. This approach was used in 2020 to allow AVs to start driving in Munich and Detroit within a few days.”
This differs considerably in approach from the majority of competitors working on autonomous vehicles. Typically, this would involve a high-definition mapping of areas where driverless cars would be deployed, so that any new autonomous vehicles would have a pre-existing understanding of the road network and potential areas of risk.