Monthly Archives: January 2016

Google’s Self-Driving Car Facility

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21798665468_dc3cbeb9cb_oOver at Backchannel, Steven Levy has an amazing behind-the-scenes look at Google’s self-driving car test facility on the grounds of the former Castle Air Force Base in Merced County, California.

“Mission control at Castle is a double-wide trailer that seems more like the op center at a construction site than a dispatch center for the future. There are desks, a ratty sofa, and instead of the high-end espresso maker commonly found at the company’s facilities, a coffeemaker that Joe DiMaggio would recognize. The most Googley objects are what look like military-grade water ordnance; they are actually Bug-a-Salt rifles that shoot pellets at the swarms of insects that are ubiquitous during the Central Valley summer.”

The piece is titled “License to (Not) Drive”. Read the whole thing.

The Language of Autonomous Driver Assistance Systems

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As I’ve done more work on autonomous driver assistance system (ADAS) components – on topics such as computer vision, localization, and controls – one topic that keeps popping up is the prevalence of C++ and, to a lesser extent, Python.

This is in some ways a stop backward, because I have worked in Ruby for the last five years, and Ruby is a powerful and concise language, especially with the Rails libraries layered on top of it.

Getting something done in C++ is considerably more verbose and open to bugs.

That said, C++ is fast. All of the beauty of Ruby comes at the cost of processes running behind the scenes to facilitate the beauty of the code. Garbage collectors, dynamic memory allocation, code compilation – all of those things take time.

In a car, time is crucial, far more so than on the web. So C++ it is.

Death-Proof Automobiles

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According to CNN, Volvo pledges that by 2020, all of their new cars and SUVs will be death-proof.

Volvo has made a shocking pledge: By 2020, no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car or SUV.

I also didn’t know this:

Fatality-free vehicles are not unprecedented. In fact, there already are some, and they’re not just Volvos. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are nine vehicle models — including the Volvo XC90 — in which no one in the United States died in the four years from 2009 to 2012, the most recent period for which data is available.

However, note that drivers will still retain the ability to commit vehicular suicide.

CNN lists the principal components of the system as:

  1. Adaptive Cruise Control
  2. Auto Lane-Keeping Assistance
  3. Collision Avoidance
  4. Pedestrian Detection
  5. Large Animal Detection