Autonomous Trucks to Get Cyborg-Like Thermal Vision

Do you know those old sci-fi movies that show how the world looks like as seen through the eyes of some cyborg? Well, that’s exactly how some autonomous trucks will be experiencing things in the near future, as companies are looking to give them increased capabilities.
Thermal cameras to aid Plus autonomous truck technology 6 photos
Photo: Flir
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So far, whatever self-driving vehicles we have moving around do not have thermal imaging, and rely on Lidar, radar, optical cameras, and a suite of other systems to do their thing. For one reason or another, thermal cameras have not been taken into consideration, despite the fact their capabilities might help AV systems better differentiate between living things and inanimate objects.

Now, a company called Plus is trying to change that, and it will start with its main area of expertise, self-driving truck technology.

Together with Teledyne FLIR, Plus is now starting work on a project meant to devise thermal cameras that can be attached to the “sensor stack used with Plus’s Level 4 autonomous driving technology.”

According to the company, the solution should give the computers governing the trucks’ AV systems a 360-degree view around the vehicle, but also the capability to distinguish pedestrians in the most adverse visibility conditions, including nighttime, shadows, dusk, sunrise, direct sunlight, headlight glare, fog and smoke.

The system should be able to pick up living beings at distances of up to 250 meters (820 feet), which is much farther than the reach of the current headlights.

At the time of writing, the project is just starting to take off, and there is no timeframe for when something should be ready.

“You can never be too safe when it comes to equipment you put on a heavy truck. Combining thermal cameras with our other sensors would bring an additional margin of safety to our system,” said in a statement Tim Daly, Chief Architect of Plus.

“Our research pilot will not only assess the technical performance but also consider cost and scale requirements in order to potentially add this to our product roadmap.”
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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