• Self-Driving Cars Becoming More Practical
  • February 8, 2018
  • Advancements in technology continue to alter motor vehicles as the industry strives toward a future without car accidents. From on-board technology applications to advanced safety protocols, manufacturers are on the look-out for the latest information in autonomous driving.

    While technology is not quite advanced enough to permit the manufacture of autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has recently proposed a new approach that may make self-driving cars a reality in the near future.

    Time of Flight Imaging
    Researchers in the Camera Culture division of MIT’s media lab have been working on innovative imaging and depth systems for the past 10 years using time of flight technology. Time of flight technology gauges distance by measuring the time it takes for light projected into a scene or situation to bounce back to a sensor and has allowed for development on cameras that can see around corners.

    Currently, cameras and other operational systems using time of flight technology only have a depth resolution of a centimeter at distances of two meters, but researchers in MIT’s Camera Culture division have proposed a new approach that would allow time of flight imaging to increase depth resolution by one thousand.

    New Research
    PhD student, Achuta Kadambi, has been an active voice in time of flight imaging research and has been conducting experiments that may allow self-driving cars to exist in the future. Current systems using time of flight technology are only accurate enough to allow for assisted parking and collision detection systems on vehicles, but a combination of technology including interferometry, acoustics, and gigahertz optical systems may be the answer.

    High resolution imaging techniques such as interferometry allow for a beam of light to be split into two when projected. One beam circulates locally, while another, the sample beam, is fired into a visual scene. The two beams are recombined after travel, with the differences in phase between the two beams resulting in a precise measurement of distance that the sample beam traveled.

    While this system alone is sensitive to vibrations, making it virtually impossible to use in vehicle technology, by adding acoustics and additional imaging software, the technology may be able to be used in self-driving vehicles.

    Challenges
    As of right now, a number of challenges continue to face researchers where time of flight technology is concerned. For the technology to be successfully implemented within vehicles, a number of variables must be met, with the biggest obstacle being fog.

    As fog distorts light signals and patterns, it is necessary for researchers to make adjustments in the frequency of travel. To combat these challenges, the Camera Culture group is actively conducting experiments with different frequencies of light and sound in various conditions.

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