Autonomous & Self-Driving Vehicle News: Yandex, Ouster, Neural Propulsion Systems, Beep & Mini Radars

In autonomous and self-driving vehicle news are Yandex, Ouster, Neural Propulsion Systems, Beep and Mini Radars.

Russian Yandex Nixes US Testing

Yandex, the Russian company that is testing bond road and sidewalk autonomous vehicles is pausing testing in Ann Arbor and for Grubhub.

Ouster MOU with Third Wave

Ouster, Inc. (NYSE: OUST) (“Ouster” or the “Company”), a leading provider of high-resolution digital lidar sensors, announced that it signed a strategic customer agreement with Third Wave Automation, a provider of versatile and effective autonomous solutions for the material handling industry. The agreement includes a forecast for over five thousand OS sensors through 2025 to equip robotic material handling vehicles with 3D digital lidar, a key component of Third Wave’s autonomous driving sensor suite.

Powered by its proprietary advanced perception software and collaborative autonomy platform, Third Wave Automation combines hybrid autonomous vehicles, intelligent fleet management, remote operation, and assistance capabilities to provide holistic material handling solutions that improve over time. Vehicles, such as forklifts, will be equipped with up to four Ouster sensors to carry out tasks such as object detection, localization, and mapping. The Third Wave Automation solution can be built into new material handling vehicles, including those developed through its strategic partnership with Toyota Industrial Corporation. The system offers the ability for vehicles to operate in manual, remote control, or fully autonomous modes, providing the end customer with flexibility in task management.

NPS White Paper Reveal New Innovations

Neural Propulsion Systems (NPS), a pioneer in autonomous sensing platforms, issued a paper revealing that compelling new innovations enable vehicles with or without human supervision to see soon enough, clear enough and far enough to eliminate roadway deaths.

Achieving zero roadway deaths is necessary for universal adoption of autonomous driving and is the objective of the recently released U.S. National Roadway Safety Strategy.

The paper finds that zero deaths require sensing and processing a peak data rate on the order of 100 X 1012 bits per second (100 Terabits per second) for vehicles to safely operate under worst roadway conditions. This immense requirement is 10 million times greater than the sensory data rate from our eyes to our brains.

The paper also shows that sensing and processing 100 Tb/s can be accomplished by combining breakthrough analytics, advanced multi-band radar, solid state LiDAR, and advanced system on a chip (SoC) technology. Such an approach will allow companies developing advanced human driver assistance systems (ADAS) and fully autonomous driving systems to accelerate progress.

NPS achieved pilot scale proof-of-concept of the core sensor element required for zero roadway deaths at a Northern California airfield in December 2021. One reason for this successful historic event is the Atomic Norm, a recently discovered mathematical framework that radically changes how sensor data is processed and understood. Atomic Norm was developed at Caltech and MIT and further developed specifically for autonomous driving by NPS.

“Based on principles from physics and information theory, it is possible for sensors to see well enough to enable zero roadway deaths.  This is not wishful thinking — it’s possible today,” said Dr. Behrooz Rezvani, founder and CEO of NPS. “We are solely focused on rolling out this historic technology that sees everything sooner, clearer and farther to provide autonomous vehicles with the stopping distance and time needed to reach zero preventable accidents. Henry Ford said his goal was for every working family to own a car. Our goal is to have nobody lose a loved one in a car crash.”

“The key question for companies developing autonomous driving systems should be ‘What must be true to get to zero roadway deaths?'” said Dr. Babak Hassibi, founder and CTO of NPS. “We have concluded that sensing and processing about 100 Tb/s is one of these necessary requirements and this is indeed possible.”

“While roadway safety has improved over the past several decades, all countries continue to face formidable challenges,” said Dr. Lawrence Burns, Executive Advisor to NPS. “Today, roadway accidents account for over 1.3 million fatalities and 50 million injuries per year, with half being pedestrians and cyclists. We now have the vehicle sensing and processing technology to see well enough to enable an end this epidemic.”

About the Authors

  • Dr. Behrooz Rezvani is a serial entrepreneur and currently founder and CEO of NPS. Companies founded by Rezvani shipped billions of products and had a major influence on the telecommunications industry, including Ikanos (acquired by Qualcomm) and Quantenna (acquired by ON Semiconductor Corp).
  • Dr. Babak Hassibi is co-founder and Chief Technologist at NPS. He is also the inaugural Mose and Lillian S. Bohn Professor of Electrical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he has been since 2001.
  • Dr. Lawrence Burnsis former Corporate Vice President of Research & Development and Planning at General Motors. He advises organizations on the future of mobility, logistics, innovation, manufacturing and energy – including Google Self-Driving Cars/Waymo for over a decade. His most recent book is Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car and How it Will Reshape Our World.

Download the white paper by Dr. Behrooz Rezvani, Dr. Babak Hassibi and Dr. Lawrence Burns here.

JTA & Beep Phase in Downtown Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) selected the Balfour Beatty Vision 2 Reality (V2R) Team and lead AV contractor Beep, a global leader in multi-passenger, electric, autonomous mobility solutions, to deliver Phase I of the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) project, the Bay Street Innovation Corridor in Downtown Jacksonville.

The Bay Street Innovation Corridor is an approximately 3-mile, at-grade autonomous vehicle transportation solution that will run along East Bay Street in Downtown Jacksonville, from Hogan Street to the city’s Sports & Entertainment District, which includes TIAA Bank Field, 121 Financial Field and the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. The project is supported by a $12.5 million BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, funding from the Florida Department of Transportation, North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, and local funds.

Phase II of the U2C program includes a full conversion of the JTA’s elevated Skyway APM system. Phase III will expand street level extensions into neighboring communities to connect Downtown Jacksonville to nearby neighborhoods.The Belfour Beatty V2R team comprises Beep, Superior Construction Southeast, WGI Inc., Stantec Consulting Services, and Miller Electric.Beep’s partnership with the JTA began as the Authority launched its AV Test & Learn Program at its Armsdale Test & Learn Center. Since 2017, the JTA’s Automation & Innovation Division has tested seven AVs and four AV platforms, and engaged with community partners, local schools, first responders, and disability advocates to ensure the U2C is safe, sustainable and accessible to all.From April to June 2020, the JTA and Beep deployed a fleet of autonomous vehicles operating in Level 4 autonomy to support the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 testing efforts at its Jacksonville Campus. Over the four-month period, AVs safely transported more than 30,000 COVID-19 samples collected from a drive-thru testing site to the hospital’s laboratories for testing. The Mayo Clinic project has since received national and international recognition from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and ITS World Congress.

Several Factors for Radar Minis

Radar miniaturization is one of the key trends that IDTechEx has identified in “Automotive Radar 2022-2042”. There are several factors that are contributing towards this, such as moving from 24GHz to 77GHz which shrinks the antenna size. Or, transitioning from SiGe-BiCMOS based transceivers to Si-CMOS ones, which reduces the number of discrete computational components and shrinks the circuit board. So, with the size continuing to come down, IDTechEx asks, how small can it get?

Multi-layer radars

A traditional radar has several component layers stacked on top of each other, each with distinct tasks. The radome is the outer protective face, which must allow the radio waves to pass through seamlessly. The antenna array converts between an electrical signal and emitted radio waves, as well as reading radio echoes and converting back to an electrical signal. The shielding separates the antenna array and the radar circuit board, where the radar circuit board holds key components like the transceiver and processors.

Radars like this still exist, but they tend to use the increased footprint availability to pack in as much performance as possible. For example, new high-performance radars from Continental, Arbe, and others featured in “Automotive Radar 2022-2042” still have fairly large footprints. These radars are typically used at the front of the vehicle where high resolution and long ranges are necessary. But around the rest of the vehicle, ranges can be shorter, and precise positioning of detected objects is less important than field of view and measuring proximity. These changes in requirements allow the size of the radar to be reduced and open up more possibilities to further reduce the package size.

Board integration

The current trend from radar suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, Infineon, and NXP is to integrate the radar circuit board and antenna. Combining these shrinks the packaging by removing the need for a shielding layer and making a separate antenna array board redundant. Part of the progress has been made by moving from 24GHz to 77GHz which results in shorter wavelength radio waves and a smaller antenna array. The second enabling factor is the move towards highly integrated chips. Instead of having multiple discrete chips on the radar circuit board, Si-CMOS technology allows the transceiver to perform nearly all the tasks required for radar, such as signal processing and object identification. This frees up room on the radar board, making space for the antenna. Not all suppliers are jumping straight to Si-CMOS though, something IDTechEx explains in “Automotive Radar “2022-2042“.

Antenna on package

Some innovators and suppliers, for example, Texas Instruments, are going one step further and putting the antenna on the top of the transceiver chip itself. This means the entire radar can be reduced to just a few 10s of millimeters in each direction. This is the cutting edge of radar tech and it is hard to see how radar could get any smaller.

Antenna on vehicle

The compromise that designers must make when reducing the radar’s size is worsening performance. A smaller antenna array can have poor range and poor resolution. So, is there a way to get all the benefits of a big antenna array, while still having high levels of integration?

One possible solution is to start embedding the antenna in the outer surface of the vehicle. This has been proposed in research already; for example, the Fraunhofer Institute are working on RadarGlass which transforms headlights into radars. IDTechEx thinks this could also be applied to body panels, embedding the antenna in the plastic to create enormous, versatile, and powerful arrays. Additionally, by delocalizing the antenna, multiple arrays could be coordinated across a single controller. With the large antenna arrays working in unison, further performance gains might be unlocked.

A variety of additive electronics manufacturing processes could be utilized to integrate radar antennas into car body panels, or onto their surface. One of the most developed methods is laser direct structuring (LDS), which uses a laser to selectively activate an additive within an injection-molded plastic component followed by electroless plating. This method is already used to produce antennas in a wide variety of consumer electronics devices. methods in an earlier stage of development include in-mold electronics (IME), in which the conductive traces are deposited prior to thermoforming and subsequent injection molding, applying functionalized films with the metal pattern already printed on them, and simply printing conductive patterns on a 3D surface. The IDTechEx report “3D Electronics 2020-2030: Technologies, Forecasts, Players” offers detailed insight into how electronics can be integrated within or onto the surface of 3D structures.

There would be questions about the practicality of how this integration fits into the existing value chain though since manufacturing a radar in this way is far less straightforward than a supplier handing over a box for the OEM to fit. For example, who makes the body panels? It is unlikely that BMW and Mercedes would want their doors designed by Bosch, but at the same time how could a supplier like Bosch design a radar antenna for every single variation of door that BMW and Mercedes offer. This concept might be of interest to someone like Tesla, who have a highly vertical manufacturing process, but Tesla seems to be moving away from radar. This kind of tech is likely to be embedded in the drawing board for a little while longer.

 

 

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