Electronics and Semiconductors

Using thermal cameras with self-driving technology

10 September 2021
Perception on a foggy night using regular cameras (left) and using thermal augmentation (right), where two clearly visible pedestrians can be seen. Source: Plus

Self-driving truck vendor Plus is collaborating on a development project to explore how thermal cameras can be used to augment its Level 4 autonomous driving technology.

Plus is working with Teledyne FLIR, the project will work to see how these cameras bring an additional layer of perception to heavy duty autonomous trucks and how it works in low visibility and high contrast conditions.

Plus uses a sensor approach that uses lidar, cameras and radar with its autonomous driving technology for a 360° view around the vehicle.

(Learn more about sensors on Globalspec.com.)

The thermal cameras could provide better visibility in nighttime, shadows, dusk, sunrise, direct sun or headlight flare as well as challenging conditions like fog or smoke. The cameras can detect and classify pedestrians at distances up to 820 ft, farther than typical headlights, Plus said.

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

Plus has been upping testing of its Level 4 self-driving trucks this year and just last month completed an autonomous trip on a highway in China’s Yangtze Delta. Plus said the highway journey represents a significant milestone in the autonomous trucking industry. The demonstration was conducted with a special permit on the newly built highway in the economic center of the Yangtze Delta. Plus claims it was the first company to be granted such a permit in China.

And earlier this year, Plus integrated Ouster’s lidar into its truck system with 2,000 digital lidar sensors being shipped to the company with more supply coming in the next five years.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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