Among all the obstacles facing self driving cars—from inclement weather to shaky public acceptance—there’s another few of us anticipated: Bugs.
Anyone who’s ever driven a stretch of road on a summer’s day (or night) has seen an insect come into view and…splat. The mess on the windshield is a minor annoyance, but when a bug obscures the LIDAR sensor on an autonomous vehicle, it’s a much more serious situation.
Ford has been working on autonomous vehicles with Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence developer, Argo AI, since 2017. Now, the pair is even coming up with a solution for insects that impact and obscure AV sensors including LIDAR.
Lidar (light detection and ranging) measures distance by illuminating a target with laser light and measuring the reflected light with a sensor. Similar to radar, differences in laser return times and wavelengths discern the range, shape, and speed of static and moving objects.
But the sensors measuring reflected laser light can be obscured by bugs splattered across their lenses, leading to critical loss of information and crashes.
“We realized we needed to come up with a [LIDAR] cleaning, cooling, and control system,” says Mark Bosca, Ford’s Chief Engineer.
With Tesla releasing V10 of its vehicle software earlier this week, owners were chomping at the bit to get their hands on the long touted “Smart Summon” feature, which is supposed to allow drivers to summon their vehicles to them in parking lots using their cell phones.
But, as things go with Tesla, the idea of the idea was worlds away from the actual implementation of it. In fact, early customer videos and reports of the “feature” are making Smart Summon look extremely dangerous and nothing short of a complete disaster.
As soon as the software update pushed to drivers, videos began popping up on social media showing a litany of negative consequences of everyday users beta testing Smart Summon in real life.
Tesla says that with Smart Summon “customers who have purchased Full Self-Driving Capability or Enhanced Autopilot can enable their car to navigate a parking lot and come to them or their destination of choice, as long as their car is within their line of sight. It’s the perfect feature to use if you have an overflowing shopping cart, are dealing with a fussy child, or simply don’t want to walk to your car through the rain.”
Tesla claims that “customers who have had early access to Smart Summon have told us that it adds both convenience to their trips and provides them with a unique moment of delight when their car picks them up to begin their journey.”
Let’s compare Tesla’s description of the feature with the real world results.
There’s this video of another vehicle backing into a Model 3 while it was being summoned in a crowded parking lot.
Soday 1 with V10 Smart Summon was working beautifully. But someone didn’t notice my M3 and made a front bumper damage. We will claim our insurances but who’s fault do you guys think it’ll be ? Should I present this videos ? @teslaownersSV @Model3Owners @LikeTeslaKim @TesLatino pic.twitter.com/fhSA78oD6C
— David F Guajardo (@DavidFe83802184) September 28, 2019