GM Commits Millions to Self-Driving Car Software Startup
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Automakers have been in a race to develop the first fully self-driving cars for years.
Tesla continues to be on top of the game with its latest Autopilot update, despite any flaws. Stellantis is also hard at work with startup Waymo to make the Chrysler Pacifica fully autonomous.
GM seems to have taken inspiration from that idea, recently announcing its partnership with tech startup Oculii. According to Reuters, GM will contribute millions of dollars for this company's radar software.
What is GM’s Oculii?
Oculii was founded in 2015 by father-son duo Land and Steven Hong in Oregon. Lang Hong is an engineering professor at State Wright University, while Steven is a graduate of Stanford University.
The company offers several 4D radar imaging products, boasting improved range and accuracy compared to traditional radar software. Oculii has also partnered with companies like Texas Instruments and Samsung.
Oculii reportedly uses low-cost tools to develop its radar technology, making it more accessible and a better investment for automakers. While neither founder disclosed the exact amount invested by GM, we can expect that it was within the seven-digit range.
Steven praised the decision, saying that it shows GM's dedication towards innovative radar technology.
How do Oculii's radars work?
Cruise control programs in cars use radars to determine the distance between your car and the ones surrounding it.
These components allow it to function safely at both highway speeds or stop-and-go traffic. While these radars aren't hindered by weather or limited natural lighting, they have other problems that some engineers have yet to address.
Most of the radars used in adaptive cruise control systems currently have limited fields of vision and even worse resolutions.
More antennas are required for higher resolution but adding too many increases the size and cost of the radar system. More components also use more power, limiting the system's performance.
This is one of the reasons why Tesla decided to entirely remove the radar component from its somewhat autonomous, "Full Self-Driving" program.
According to Musk, it only hinders the ability of artificial intelligence to make better decisions. However, Tesla still wants to use cheaper cameras with a questionable resolution for its Autopilot program.
Understandably, many drivers might be wary about operating a car without any radar sensors, especially with low-resolution cameras. If the picture quality is too poor, the AI might make unsafe decisions while driving.
Steven Hong agreed with Tesla's comments about existing radars but says that high-resolution radars are the solution. To create the most optimal radar systems, Oculii uses advanced sensor fusion during the development process.
Hong also says that advanced radars will enhance the overall safety of a vehicle as well as its autonomy. Better imaging technology can act as an alternative to reverse cameras if they fail. Oculii also says its radars are less noisy, creating less distraction for the driver.
Future plans for GM autonomous vehicles
According to CNBC, GM wants to deliver autonomous vehicles to its consumers within the decade.
The Super Cruise system is already present on select models, like the Cadillac CT6. It works similarly to Autopilot, but critics say its sensors are more refined and the ride is smoother. An interior camera ensures that the driver keeps their hands on the wheel.
By 2023, GM plans to implement Super Cruise on at least 22 vehicles, with 95% autonomy. With Oculii's advanced radar and sensor technology, GM is well on its way to a 100% self-driving car.
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