Mobileye, the Israeli company that supplies camera-based driver assist technology to a host of automakers, just received a black eye.
While one of its Ford Fusion Hybrid testbeds cruised through the streets of Jerusalem to show off its autonomous driving abilities, the sedan, equipped with 12 cameras (three of them forward facing), four advanced EyeQ4 chips, and a television audience, drove merrily through a red light.
It’s technically not the car’s fault, Mobileye said. It’s the TV crew’s.
According to The Detroit News, the car was outfitted with news cameras from Israel’s Channel 10 before setting out for its journey. A safety driver sat behind the wheel. Despite an otherwise uneventful trip, the media event saw the Fusion sail through a red light without slowing or stopping. (See the video here.)
Technological hiccups, as we’ve seen, are par for the course in this wild and wooly era of early autonomous vehicle testing. Luckily no one was hurt in this incident.
So what caused the test car, which eschews radar and lidar for a suite of cameras and Intel-developed chips, to ignore what it saw? Electromagnetic interference from the TV crew’s onboard cameras (from the camera’s wireless transmitters, specifically) interfered with the signal from the traffic light transponder, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua claims. While the cameras saw the red light, it didn’t jibe with the transponder signals received by the car. Thus, the car ignored the camera.
“It was a very unique situation,” he said in an interview. “We’d never anticipated something like this.”
Shashua claims his company has since fixed the problem, but without saying exactly how. He did add that Mobileye would better shield the car’s computers from electromagnetic interference in the future. The company, acquired by Intel for a ridiculous sum last year, unveiled its Level 4 autonomous vehicle in January.
Just last week, Mobileye secured a contract with an unnamed European manufacturer for its Level 3 “semi-autonomous” driving technology. According to Reuters, the company’s tech will appear in 8 million of that automaker’s vehicles over the life of the contract. Mobileye already has partnerships with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and many other automakers.
As for the Fusions and their Level 4 technology, Mobileye says those systems won’t be commercially available until 2021. In the past, Shashua has said that full autonomy requires a combination of all types of imaging systems: cameras, radar, and lidar.