"Fully automated cars still just a dream"
11 June 2019 - globes
SAIPS AV director Asaf Kagan told a Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz law firm conference on innovation that self-driving cars will not arrive so soon.
"Regulation does not restrict development of the autonomous car. Drivers are required to be active for at least some of the driving in autonomous cars (it is called 'partial' automation or 'dependent' automation) when on the road but supervision of them is very minimal," said Asaf Kagan AV Sector Director at SAIPS, which was acquired by car manufacturing giant Ford for tens of millions of dollars.
Kagan was speaking at a conference on innovation in Tel Aviv organized the Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz law firm and patent attorneys in memory of Yoel Amir, one of the first senior engineers at the Dimona nuclear reactor. In the 1960s, Amir served in a secret army reserve unit that was involved in the development of weapons by the Southern Command. Before that he and his partner Omri Talmon founded the first startup in Beersheva.
At the conference, Kagan spoke about the levels of driving in autonomous cars and situations in which the driver is not required at all to do any driving actions. He said, "Companies like Google and General Motors are already talking about High Driving Automation in which a car knows how to drive in the fullest way but with certain restrictions in some locations. This type of vehicle will require significant supervision. At the start, we will need to convince a committee that our planning is sufficiently safe in order to put the car on the road. This is a problem in itself because the algorithms in the artificial intelligence sector are very complicated and it is difficult to explain to committee members how the algorithms work. Therefore, an additional layer of implementation is required from the practical regulatory point of view in order and of course to prove that it is better than human performance. This is an expensive process over a very long time and consequently there are attempts all the time to simulate genuine driving situations using computerized simulations. But ultimately, building the simulations is also limited."
Kagan added that, "The highest level of autonomous driving, which is called Full Driving Automation, is still a distant dream and even serious companies are not claiming that they will be implementing it in the foreseeable future."
He continued that the main problem in the autonomous driving sector is the planning. "Most of the companies in the field are focusing on mapping roads, buildings and the environment, observing dynamic objects such as pedestrians that might jump out into the road and in the positioning of the car in relation to the road and major junctions. Most of the failures today come from the level of planning. We must understand how various factors in a scenario will react if I were to take action. For example, if I were to turn, will the vehicle behind me understand that I am going to break? What do we do at a roundabout? Must I break or should the pedestrian wait? This problem has not been completely solved today. This sector is still undergoing major research and there are not many people that know how to do this at a high level. Because of this most of the startups in advanced stages are in other elements that are assembling the autonomous car simply because they are more solvable."
On the future of AI/AV, Kagan said that, "In the future every vehicle will know how to analyze its surroundings and make decisions. 15 years ahead we will be in a situation in which many cars will try to analyze the same scenario and their next action but they will only have some of the data. Therefore, they will have to conduct a dialogue among themselves - who is going to overtake, accelerate etc. It's possible to install on every traffic light and road sign, sensors that will transmit to the cars and assist them in making smart decisions."
Alongside the autonomous car companies, there is an entire industry in the field of drones and autonomous aerial vehicles. One of the companies operating in this area and which just recently won the Atlas 2019 startup competition is Taranis, which developed a monitoring system for agricultural fields using advanced optics technology and working in the ag-tech field of precision farming.
Taranis founder Amichai Gornik said, "Today 35% of overall agricultural produce goes into the garbage because of problems with diseases, pests, irrigation, and more. We are carrying out a kind of farming revolution and trying to overcome these obstacles through layers of data. Agricultural land is photographed from the air at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour, taking about 4,000 agricultural pictures per day and then you still have to interpret what to do with all the information. We're talking about massive and large areas. For the sake of comparison, an average Israeli farmer works on about 2,500 acres while in Brazil the average is one thousand times that. In order to cope with the quantity of data and to produce real-time conclusions you need a bank of targets and to teach the software what is a problem and what isn't. The targets we mark out with two layers of data gathering at various distances and speeds from the ground using Deep Learning methods. There are still problems when it happens that the camera identifies a leaf shaped shadow and then a human eye has to examine the data. Roy Shmuel, CEO of Sightec, which is developing navigation and orientation technology for autonomous flights, also spoke about the challenges in the aerial sector. He said, "Cities are becoming more and more densely populated in various regions around the world and traffic in them is congested with huge jams. We see around the world huge companies like Boeing and NASA with massive federal budgets and many teams around the world trying to find a solution to the problem. Google, for example, is concentrating on deliveries and recently received approval for Google Wing to begin using drones for deliveries in Australia and Amazon is also working on a similar method."
"The challenge is to find lightweight solutions so that autonomous aerial vehicles can take off into the air without external assistance and still be very strong. How do you bring the strength capabilities of the computer to the end-user? It is important to remember that we are dealing with the aerial sector and must cope with the problem of gravity. Today, the drones that dominate the market go up for short flights of 20-30 minutes and the solution must be better. In addition, regulations and safety in the aviation world are much stricter than in the automotive world. I am transporting a package from one point to another and I have to be able to track it. We know about similar problems from the world of combat where there is concern about remote control of GPS and diverting drones from their flight paths. The number of decision that the pilot must take in his cockpit is large. The vision is a system that will know how to provide information in a smart and accurate way in real time in order to make immediate decisions, when the ideal is that autonomous devices and vehicles will know how to prevent crashes."
As previously stated, the conference was held in memory of Yoel Amir, one of the founders of the Dimona nuclear reactor. Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz Managing Partner Adv. and Patent Attorney Zeev Pearl said, "Yoel Amir dealt with innovation all of his life starting as a young engineer and one of the first at the Dimona nuclear reactor and subsequently as an entrepreneur in Beersheva. Like many in the high-tech community in Israel, Yoel contributed both in the security dimension and was a party to setting up the Southern Weapons Unit, which deal in technical solutions on a various and diverse subjects relevant to the Southern Command. Later Yoel worked for Scitex one of the flagship companies of Israeli high-tech where he was involved in managing innovation and intellectual property for the company."
Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz Patents Group Partner Adv. and Patent Attorney Yoav Alkalay said, "Only recently the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published a report that in recent years that is a dramatic rise in patents in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the industries in which most of the patents are registered in are communications, transport and medicine. The companies taking part in this conference are examples of how in practice the field of AI is already influencing these industries.