Seeking the truth with autonomous cars
12:30 AM | October 30 2015

Seeking the truth with autonomous cars

Volvo Cars has highlighted its leadership in autonomous driving by revealing technology that ensures the vehicles used for Drive Me – its pioneering real-life trial of autonomous cars – will use sensors with high accuracy.
In autonomous mode these cars rely on data from a number of sensors to get a clear picture of their surroundings so that they can decide what to do next. Ensuring the accuracy of this data is at the heart of creating autonomous cars that you can trust. It’s the key responsibility for Volvo Cars engineers Johan Villyson and Mattias Kumlin. Their innovation is a process that tests data from the car’s sensors against a device called the Velodyne LiDAR ground truth sensor.

The LiDAR sensor is a device mounted to the roof of the car that rotates at 10 revolutions per second and uses 64 laser beams to scan the surroundings in incredible detail. It only delivers raw data. However, Johan developed unique software that interprets this and identifies elements such as other vehicles, lane markings, pedestrians and cyclists, such that it can be checked against the car’s readings and actions.

“The LiDAR sensor can process so much data – it’s almost limitless,” Johan says. “We use this to verify the complete Autopilot function – not only the sensors – so we can see how the car behaves, like whether it brakes at the right time, or if the steering signal is correct.” Computer software allows Johan and Mattias to identify any errors and correct them.

This process has been taking place on real roads for the past year or so and will continue throughout the testing phase. It means that any issues will be resolved by the time real customers get behind the wheel of their cars when the Drive Me trial starts in 2017. They won’t need anything strapped to the top of their car – they can be confident that, thanks to the innovation and dedication of Volvo Cars engineers, they will be able to just sit back, relax and let the car do the driving.