Motional and Derq embark on Las Vegas trial to boost perception with overhead camera data

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Motional has partnered with Derq, an AI company developing innovative road solutions, to test how driverless technology reacts when given an even broader perspective than it already has – a bird’s-eye view. The trial will take place at two busy urban intersections in Las Vegas. Nevada.

Currently, Motional’s driverless vehicles process their surroundings using a sensor suite of advanced lidar, cameras and radar that see up to 300m away and a full 360° around the vehicle. However to further improve its computer vision – in particular to make it easier for its self-driving vehicles to navigate challenging scenarios, such as multi-lane intersections – and to improve rider comfort, Motional now plans to supplement its perception stack with real-time data provided from cameras placed above intersections.

Derq is at the forefront of using AI and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology to create safer roads. In the pilot, cameras, placed high up in busy intersections and connected to Derq’s AI systems running on roadside computers, will transmit data to Motional’s vehicles.

This data will provide Motional with a different view of some of the toughest intersections its vehicles have to navigate. From their elevated vantage point, Derq’s system can see cars exiting parking lots, pedestrians stepping between parked cars and cyclists weaving through cars stopped at a red light. It can also predict their movements to provide advance notice of potentially challenging interactions with Motional’s vehicles. And this data is available even before a Motional vehicle enters the intersection.

Initially, Motional and Derq will evaluate the different viewpoints (from Motional’s sensor suite and Derq’s cameras) offline. By studying the data offline, the two companies can replay a scene over and over, and examine how the driverless vehicle navigates the scene with and without the extra data from Derq’s cameras.

Later in the pilot, Motional’s vehicles will receive Derq’s bird’s-eye-view data in real time to help inform their driving. The vehicles will process that view alongside the data received through the vehicles’ lidar, cameras, and radar to make the safest and smartest driving decisions.

Motional anticipates that along with helping the vehicles navigate challenging scenarios, the extra viewpoint will also enable them to make smoother decisions, leading to a more enjoyable ride for the passenger. For example, braking more gradually for a traffic obstacle or shifting lanes earlier for an upcoming turn.

In addition to providing real-time bird’s-eye-view data to Motional’s vehicles, Derq’s technology can also detect and alert road operators about dangerous traffic incidents unrelated to autonomous vehicles, such as crashes and wrong-way drivers. Derq can in turn build a better understanding of safety hotspots on roads and feed this information back to the AVs and road operators for better routing, design and planning.

Las Vegas pilot
Motional and Derq are launching the pilot at two high-traffic intersections in Las Vegas. The intersections were selected for their complexity, which includes significant pedestrian and cyclist interactions (pedestrian crossings and bike lanes); challenging sight lines due to trees, signs and other large obstacles; and complex vehicle interactions among multiple lanes of traffic.

These intersections also have existing smart infrastructure that was installed to help Motional and the local governments monitor and manage these challenging roadways. The pilot will launch this spring.

“The City of Las Vegas strives to build a world-class city through planning, developing and implementing innovative solutions for our unique challenges,” said a spokesperson for the City of Las Vegas Department of Public Works Transportation Engineering Division. “The operation of the Motional driverless vehicles in the Las Vegas area has provided our residents another mode of transportation among the other many multi-modal options available.  We look forward to continued innovation as we build a sustainable and resilient community.”

“Motional and Derq share a common goal to create safer streets through technology innovation,” added a spokesperson for Motional. “Through this partnership, we’re finding new ways to make driverless vehicles even more advanced, which will lead to wider, faster and more effective deployments. A world full of driverless vehicles means a world with fewer accidents caused by human error, and millions of lives saved. That’s why we’ll never stop innovating.”

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With over 20 years experience in editorial management and content creation for multiple, market-leading titles at UKi Media & Events (publisher of Autonomous Vehicle International), Anthony has written articles and news covering everything from aircraft, airports and cars, to cruise ships, trains, trucks and even tires!

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