Intel/Mobileye Self-Driving Cars Begin Testing in Jerusalem
But are the cars up to the challenge?
Despite increased tension between Israel and Palestine, Intel and subsidiary Mobileye are bringing self-driving cars to the streets of Jerusalem. Even under the best of circumstances, the city's crowded streets and aggressive drivers would make for a challenging environment to test autonomous cars, but that's exactly why the two companies are bringing them to national hub.
Mobileye is based in Israel, but the company and parent Intel also want to demonstrate that self-driving cars can work in all driving conditions, CEO Amnon Shashua said in a press release. Jerusalem's aggressive drivers, poorly-marked streets, and complicated merges will require autonomous cars to develop a new set of skills, he said.
"You can't have an autonomous car traveling at an overly cautious speed, congesting traffic, or potentially causing an accident," Shashua said. "You must drive assertively and make quick decisions like a local driver."
A major reason why self-driving cars are expected to be safer than human drivers is because they can be programmed not to break the rules. While that's a sensible idea in theory, it doesn't match up with the reality of driving in certain parts of the world. Developers also can't count on clear signage or clearly marked lanes, which most current self-driving cars rely on to orient themselves. To truly replace human drivers, autonomous cars will have to learn to deal with chaos.
Embracing chaos is exactly what Mobileye and Intel plan to do in their Jerusalem tests. They hope to refine the cars' decision-making process so that cars can "drive with a human-like style (so as not to surprise other drivers) but without making human errors," Shashua said.
While most self-driving cars rely on a combination of cameras, radar, and lidar, cars deployed in Jerusalem will use only cameras initially. Cars will use 12 cameras, including eight dedicated to long-range sensing, and four for parking. Intel and Mobileye want to prove that a self-driving car can operate with cameras alone, then adding radar and lidar at a later stage will create "true redundancy." It probably doesn't hurt that cameras are Mobileye's specialty.
Intel and Mobileye hope to put SAE Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous-driving systems on the market by 2021. BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have already partnered with the two tech companies on research, so they will likely be among the first customers.