Computerized vision systems—one of the core technologies behind autonomous vehicles—are coming to production cars. GM is putting these robot eyes into the everyday kinds of safety systems that track traffic and lane changes. It’s a humble early step in the robot car revolution.
Yesterday General Motors invited journalists to its Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan for what sounded like a mundane affair—show and tell with the new versions of standard safety features. But the tech behind those everyday safety features was what caught our eye: With minimal fanfare, GM has put the first camera-based robotic vision system into a production vehicle.
The new GM system uses a single forward-looking camera to aid lane departure and collision warnings—mainstream features already in most new cars. The system actively monitors traffic and road conditions within the camera’s 37-degree range of vision. The computer software sorts and then assigns geometric data to each vehicle within its line of sight and tracks it, checking 14 times per second for changes in position of nearby vehicles to decided whether they pose a threat. If the geometric data shows an object getting larger in the camera’s field of view, for instance, the robot system would interpret that the same way our brains would: The object is getting closer (and the faster it grows, the faster it and the car are moving toward each other). The system also watches for solid or broken lane markings as well as curbs and other obstacles.
Current systems use radar to give an approximate location of danger ahead, or use downward-facing cameras to track the lines on the road. This system represents the first baby step toward a car that watches the road in much the same way as the driver does.
GM Puts the First Robotic Vision System in a Production Car - Autonomous Vehicle Tech - Popular Mechanics