A Decade after DARPA: Our View on the State of the Art in Self-Driving Cars

By Bryan Salesky, CEO, Argo AI

Argo AI
Argo AI
Oct 16, 2017 · 8 min read

Sensing the world

Sensors still have a long way to go. We use LiDAR sensors, which work well in poor lighting conditions, to grab the three-dimensional geometry of the world around the car, but LiDAR doesn’t provide color or texture, so we use cameras for that. Yet cameras are challenged in poor lighting, and tend to struggle to provide enough focus and resolution at all desired ranges of operation. In contrast, radar, while relatively low resolution, is able to directly detect the velocity of road users even at long distances.

Understanding the world

Once an autonomous vehicle has the tools to “see” relevant objects around it, it’s up to the car itself to take the next step — identifying the type of object, whether it’s a pedestrian, cyclist, another vehicle or debris on the road, and how fast that object is moving. The car then must make a determination about that object’s likely behavior.

Prediction

When we drive a car today, we’re subconsciously estimating the next few seconds of behavior from other road users — anticipating when a pedestrian might jaywalk or when another car may be about to cut us off. Attentive drivers are incredibly good at reacting in these situations — managing their speed and planning out contingencies to adapt to anomalous behavior from others. These same actions, which good drivers perform quickly while avoiding a drastic response, are also required for a self-driving car to navigate busy city streets.

System integration and testing

Generally, the software that powers a self-driving car is what’s called a stochastic system. What this means is that the results are determined through a series of detected patterns and models applied to inherently random sensor inputs, rather than through a mathematical equation with a consistent set of inputs that translates to a consistent set of outputs.

Self-Driven

Our Self-Driving Future

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Argo AI

https://www.argo.ai/

Self-Driven

Our Self-Driving Future