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Thermal cameras could be key to safer self-driving vehicles

Thermal cameras could be key to safer self-driving vehicles
From Engadget - February 14, 2018

The Israeli startup is only a few months old, but it's already built a thermal camera for a demo vehicle I had a chance to ride in. The device passively collects thermal data from the world, then converts it into a high-resolution video that the company drops into its computer-vision system. Then whatever it sees is classified as a car, person, animal, road and so on.

That's pretty much how other sensors work, too, but during the demo, it became clear that the system could see and classify items that could be difficult to parse with the typical cameras on an autonomous car. The in-car monitor showed and classified people and animals based on their thermal signature. Even if a system like this ca not immediately determine something it sees is a person, the heat signature would at least show that it's probably alive.

Adasky is not the only company looking to bring thermal vision to vehicles. Longtime thermal imaging company Flir recently announced an automotive development kit (ADK) for its car-mounted camera.

While a camera and LiDAR could have seen these things as well, in the sunny Las Vegas weather it was easy to imagine them getting lost in fog, dust and even direct sunlight with those vision-based sensors. Being able to see the difference in temperature, even on things like the road, is important.

For folks that drive in areas where black ice (ice on the road that's invisible to drivers) is a problem, the Adasky system would be able to see the slick surface so the car could adjust its path.

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