Report: Self-Driving Car Companies Must Choose Between Active, Passive Sensors

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June 13, 2018—Among the most important features of these autonomous cars are the sensors they use to read the world around them, according to NetworkNewsWire Editorial Coverage.

These fall into two groups: passive and active. Active sensors project energy into the world and then use the reflections they get back to understand what's there. Passive sensors using energy that's already in the world, particularly light or heat.

Specialist companies have started to emerge in this field, focusing entirely on car sensor technology. One of these is Foresight Autonomous Holdings Ltd.

The company has already drawn attention with its advanced technology. It has acquired leading investors from the local automotive industry and reached a market cap of $100 million as of January 2018.

Foresight's leading product is the QuadSight system. This drew positive press attention when it was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

One of the distinctive features of the QuadSight system is that it doesn't rely on pattern recognition to identify when there is an obstacle in its way. Any object can be detected, regardless of its material, color or shape. This gives the system an advantage over competitors whose sensors have to be programmed or trained to identify specific hazards.

One of the most serious problems with active sensors is interference. As a growing number of autonomous vehicles hit the streets, the number of sensors increases. As long as they use active sensors, this means an increase is the amount of energy being put out into the world by these sensors. As a result, they can end up interfering with each other, and this problem is only going to grow while people uses active sensors. This could lead to objects with low radar cross sections going undetected.

Although active sensors are certified according to safety regulations (FCC/FDA/IEC, etc.) and are thus safe, it is important to keep in mind that each device is certified as a separate unit. At this stage, it is too early to measure the effects of energy exposure emitted by hundreds of vehicles and road infrastructure on road users. Active sensors (especially radars) might pose a health hazard.

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