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Vislab does successful test on real streets


A nice result for Vislab of Parma, Italy. They have completed a trial run on public roads using their mostly vision-based driving system. You can see a report on the Vislab site for full details. The run included urban, rural and highway streets. While the press release tries to make a big point that they did this with a vacant driver's seat, the video shows a safety driver in that seat at all times, so it's not clear how the test was done. They indicate that the passenger had an emergency brake, and a chase car had a remote shutoff as well.

The Vislab car uses a LIDAR for forward obstacle detection, but their main thrust is the use of cameras. An FPGA-based stereo system is able to build point clouds from the two cameras. Driving appears to have been done in noonday sunlight. (This is easy in terms of seeing things but hard in terms of the harsh shadows.)

The article puts a focus on how the cameras are cheaper and less obtrusive. I continue to believe that is not particularly interesting -- lasers will get cheaper and smaller, and what people want here is the best technology in the early adopter stages, not the cheapest. In addition, they will want it to look unusual. Cheaper and hidden are good goals once the cars have been deployed for 5-10 years.

This does not diminish the milestone of their success, making the drive with this sensor set and in these conditions.


As a very casual observer, it seems to me that vision based sensing is very important, for cost reasons. I can see some LIDAR/RADAR sensors, but they would need to be cheap and have no moving parts. Hence the Google cars with LIDAR will never make it. Of course, they may be learning to solve problems that are important with substitute sensors.

Check my earlier article on LIDAR vs. Vision to understand why this is very wrong. Saying that LIDAR is too expensive is like saying hard drives were too expensive back in the 80s.

WOW...a great experiment. I think the day is not far when the cars will be running without drivers. But it has to be seen that how safe it will be.

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