‘But you can’t always be there…’
The mobile sensing system Mobileye uses a single camera, mounted on the windscreen, to judge whether the car is drifting out of the lane, or about to hit a vehicle, pedestrian, or kangaroo. It can give up to 2.7 seconds warning if it calculates there is a potential collision. But it may not see a wombat (too short), according to the person presenting this product at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics this morning.
This $2000 device from Israel seems most often to be designed to correct the driving behaviour of other people. It does so by beeping whenever it senses poor driving. You can avoid the warning beep by using the indicators properly before crossing the lane. In the advertisement above, it’s this woman’s rogue texting that would have made her smash her car. Luckily the Mobileye operates as the surrogate eye of the father, and warns her of this danger. Another common use case is in truck fleets. If the device reports too many times when the truck drifted out of the lane, the driver can be fired. ‘if you have a serial tailgater you can prove it and dismiss him for it’.
Some car manufacturers are already using Mobileye in production cars: BMW is using it only for keeping their drivers in the lane, but not for collision monitoring. Volvo and GM are working on a system that will actually read road signs, and give their speeding drivers warning.
The researchers at the ACFR were interested in adapting the Mobileye for use on robots. One of the limitations of the system is that it won’t recognise obstacles unless the vehicle is moving at over 5kmh (presumably stereo-optical systems would work better). This is unfortunate, because robots have a problem with starting moving. The researchers also needed to access the Mobileye as a data source, and not as a black-boxed commodity system. They need information, not beeping. The presenter assured the roboticists that it should be possible to hack the eye so that it would be useable in that way (but they would need to contact the head office).