CAV computing…simulations, caveats, trolleys and time

 

Danny Shapiro is senior director of automotive at NVIDIA, a company at the forefront of driverless car computing. He spoke to Transport Network about the central debates around connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV).

Developing driverless cars is one of the ‘hardest computer challenges ever’ but it can and will succeed, Mr Shapiro (pictured) told Transport Network.

”Local

He told Transport Network: ‘The complexity is enormous, one of the hardest computer challenges ever. [But] If we take human driven cars off the road we could solve the problem today.’

When asked whether a business model had been developed yet for driverless cars, Mr Shapiro insisted that there were CAV markets and said NVIDIA was working with around 400 companies on various projects.

‘The attempts to roll out the technology are in more contained spaces. We are working with Volvo Trucks and in mining and quarry work where you don’t have drivers. Some people are looking at college campuses; there is a San Francisco start-up working on driverless postal deliveries, and we will see more and more robot taxi trials happening.’

The firm is also working with British AI start-up Academy of Robotics, which has developed Europe’s first roadworthy autonomous delivery vehicle, and is already involved in a partnership with infrastructure giant Eurovia to support highways maintenance.

Mr Shapiro also argued that in the next year or so the latest class of vehicles will be leveraging more and more Level 4 CAV technology; with the ability to operate on a predetermined route with a driver in the vehicle who can take over if necessary.

Level 5 would be full autonomy, capable of regular road use and interaction with other drivers, which is something Mr Shapiro believes is possible and the company is working towards.

Divide and conquer

NVIDIA is taking a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to the problem by identifying and tackling ‘one critical piece of functionality at a time’, each one being dubbed a NVIDIA Drive AV ‘mission’.

There are scores of such missions underpinned by deep neural networks (DNN) – a complex system of gathering and processing data designed to mimic the human brain.

A neural network has an input and an output layer of computational nodes, a network with more than one ‘hidden layer’ –set of processes between the input and output layer - is generally referred to as a DNN.

Among NVIDIA’s long list of DNNs and driverless missions, it has developed a WaitNet DNN that is able to detect intersections without using a map; the ClearSightNet DNN trained to evaluate cameras’ ability to see clearly, and a LaneNet DNN, which ‘increases lane detection range, lane edge recall, and lane detection robustness with pixel-level precision’

It also uses recurrent neural networks for tasks like predicting the future – or at least the future position and velocity of dynamic objects such as cars and pedestrians. This uses computational methods and sensor data, such as a sequence of images, to figure out how an object is moving in time.

”Local

NVIDIA is a world leader in this type of machine learning and high speed computing, particularly when it comes to interactive 3d graphics. It originally made its name in computer gaming after revolutionising the industry with its GPU, (graphics processing unit) and advancing ‘parallel computing’, which resulted in much faster and complex computing power.

The computer processor giant, which has a multi-billion pound annual turnover, went on to use these computing systems to help advance artificial intelligence and deep learning.

This software can take in data that it is trained to identify – such as certain objects or patterns – and develop inference processes, where the software can identify patterns it has never seen before through its existing neural network base.

Key to this is the amount and variety of data and simulations you can use to build up the software’s neural knowledge.

Mr Shapiro points out: ‘It’s not important how many miles a CAV has driven. What is important is the variety - covering an area of different driving behaviours so all these varieties are factored in.’

Trolley problems

Another mission NVIDIA has developed is the ‘Safety Force Field’ (SFF). This ‘analyses and predicts the dynamics of the surrounding environment by taking in sensor data and determining a set of actions to protect the vehicle and other road users’.

‘Backed by robust calculations, SFF makes it possible for vehicles to achieve safety based on mathematical zero-collisions verification,’ NVIDIA says.

The idea is that if every vehicle was connected to such a force field it would solve not only driver safety but the philosopher’s ‘trolley problem' – what happens when a driverless car has to swerve to avoid a crash, but thereby puts other drivers or pedestrians in danger? Who does it save?

Mr Shapiro tells Transport Network: ‘The car is not going to run them over. A driverless car will never get to the trolley problem because of the safety force field. If every vehicle had a safety force field there would be no collisions, this is mathematically provable.’

The NVIDIA press statement regarding the SFF it has a list of disclaimers. Although NVIDIA points out that it makes these standard disclaimers on any product launch and common procedure for any company operating in the U.S., as required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Even Mr Shapiro suggests that in the early days of driverless cars there may still be crashes as the technology develops but it is still undoubtedly the direction we must take towards greater road safety.

It is hard to argue against this, as Mr Shapiro points out human drivers are basically…well, awful, and despite all our improvements in recent years, we still kill around 1.2 million people a year worldwide on the roads.

Nudge tactics

Another key issue raised by the law commissions of England Wales and Scotland no less, is how to avoid pedestrians shutting down driverless car lanes by jumping out in front of a queue of cars and simply standing there. How do driverless cars navigate busy pedestrian areas?

The law commissions point out that the idea of nudging a car forward in the same way a human driver might to encourage people to move is a highly difficult thing to programme for, and no one is entirely sure it should be programmed for.

Mr Shapiro does not have much time for such pessimism. ‘The driverless car can be trained to drive like a human drives. It can mimic human behaviour and they will be able to understand how to drive in such situations. It’s not hard coding, it’s using deep learning to recognise hazards and unusual issues and anomalies.

‘Even if it has not been told what to do, it knows what approach to take and it knows what outcomes to achieve.’

His argument is that there is little that cannot be discovered and therefore modelled for on the roads. We just need to discover the unknown, unknowns.

Transport Network suggests that to some the situation might to some seem like a type of infinity model, like monkeys jumping up and down on keyboards trying to write Shakespeare.

‘That is random, this is much more structured. We run the simulations and we do thousands of permutations. Models can be written; it’s just exhaustive testing that is necessary.’

Model by model, mission by mission, NVIDIA is wearing down the driverless car mountain, it just takes time and…maybe just a few caveats.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

Part Time Community Rail Partnership Officer

Essex County Council
£24000 - £26275 per annum + Plus Excellent Benefits Package
Please note that this position is being offer on a part time basis, covering 23 hours per week. Working Pattern TBC. England, Essex, Rochford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Development Management Engineer

North Yorkshire County Council
£24,313 to £34,788
To be successful you must... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Inspector

Hackney London Borough Council
£28,752 - £32,577
We are seeking an experienced Highways Inspector to join the Highways Team. Hackney, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hackney London Borough Council

Environmental Health Officer and Grad EHO – Private Sector Housing with benefits* x 2

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 - £42,490
We have an exciting opportunity for two organised and enthusiastic Environment Health Officers  or a qualified graduate working towards their... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Ugobus Driver x 7 positions

Essex County Council
Up to £18938.0 per annum
Please note that this is a 6 month fixed term contract on a part time basis. Working hours will be discussed at interview. The salary is up to £18,938 England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Highways Engineer

Rutland County Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
Do you enjoy getting outdoors in the course of your work? Rutland
Recuriter: Rutland County Council

Senior Highways Manager

Rutland County Council
£47,544 to £51,138
This is the lead role for our Highways service with a remit to... Rutland
Recuriter: Rutland County Council

Road Safety Assistant (Cycling)

London Borough of Bexley
£13,947.32 - £14,713.97, per annum
You will be an enthusiastic individual who can effectively communicate with children and adults. Bexleyheath, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Bexley

Key Route Network Manager

Liverpool City Region
£63,753 - £71,747
An exciting new opportunity has arisen within the Integrated Transport Directorate of the LCR Combined Authority Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Region

Medium/Heavy Vehicle Mechanic - January 2020

North West Leicestershire District Council
You could earn up to £28,785 + 0.75 hours per week plain time overtime
Tasks will include preparation for DVSA annual examination, servicing, general and defect generated repairs, fault finding including diagnostic tests. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recuriter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Senior Engineer (Co-ordinator) - 2 jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£22,462 - £29,636 + £2000 Market Rate Supplement
The role is in the Highway Network Management & Co-ordination (HNMC) Team, which is part of Operational Services. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Surface Water Engineer

Essex County Council
£30001.0 - £35350 per annum
At Essex County Council, we're passionate about helping deliver economic growth, the best starts in life and the chance to age well for people in the England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Highways Operations Manager

Swindon Borough Council
Salary up to £41,494 p.a.
In this key role, you will plan, organise, co-ordinate and control the workforce Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Director Neighbourhood & Enforcement

Telford & Wrekin Council
Cicra 89k
Telford and Wrekin is a great place to live, work, visit and do business. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Senior Engineer (Highways Maintenance Design)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£22,462 - £29,636
Are you looking for an opportunity to work as a Senior Engineer, whilst still being able to develop your career and have a good work-life balance? Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Projects Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£33,153 - £35,755
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Senior Heating Engineer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
Up to £48,692 per annum
Looking for a Senior Heating Engineer who will work as part of one of the small professional teams. London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Lead Practitioner (Infrastructure)

Newark & Sherwood District Council
£33,799 to £35,934 per annum
Newark and Sherwood is looking to recruit to its newly created post of Lead Practitioner for Infrastructure. Newark, Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Newark & Sherwood District Council

Senior Parking Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
As Senior Parking Manager, you will be responsible for the effective management of the Council’s Parking Services contract Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

School Crossing Patrol

Brent Council
£21,591 - £22,377 p.a. inc. pro rata. (£11.50 per hour)
A school crossing patrol officer is responsible for assisting children to cross the road safely on their way to and from school. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council