JAN 30, 2019 08:17 AM PST

Autonomous Vehicle Tech Part I: See Around Corners

(Pexels)

The development of autonomous vehicles has picked up tremendous momentum in the recent decade. Armed with technologies such LIDARs (also known as 3D laser scanning system), real-time image processing computers and time-of-flight cameras, some of which are already available in some current vehicles, industrial and university researchers are creating vehicles that can "see" and identify hazards on the road. 

A team of electric engineers at Boston University (BU) has come up with a new method to allow one, be that a human driver or AI in autonomous vehicles, to see around corners. Similar feat has been achieved before by others, but it usually requires scanning lasers and highly sensitive cameras. What's intriguing about the BU's approach is that they do not require any fancy optical instruments, but just a regular digital camera and an algorithm they wrote, which they refer to as the "computational periscope".

Periscopes, often composed of twin mirrors or prisms, allow people to see objects that are blocked by obstacles or outside of direct line-of-sight. With no mirrors around the corners in the real world, the BU team's algorithm relies on the lights that are bounced off wall-like structures.

Mirrors have a smooth, flat surface that is capable of specular reflection, meaning almost of light rays are perfectly reflected in a single angle. But the walls aren't smooth. When parallel light rays bounce off a wall, they become a disordered mix of light.

The algorithm developed by electrical engineer Vivek Goyal and colleagues at BU is able to "unscramble" the scattered reflections, which are captured by the camera. They placed a flat opaque screen, acting like an “occluder”, between the hidden object and the wall. Even though the screen casts a shadow on the wall, it actually gives the computation periscope an advantage by restricting the amount of light that end up on the wall. The algorithm worked backward from images on the wall, which were more like a bunch of scrambled, deemed light rays, to re-create patterns that match the hidden objects.

The researchers hope that the algorithm could be used to monitor hazardous environments and navigation. One can expect that some day in the future autonomous vehicles equipped with see-around-corners technology like this can improve road safety for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Their work was published in the journal Nature.

Computational Periscopy with an Ordinary Digital Camera (Computational Periscopy)

Source: Nature

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
DEC 15, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 15, 2019
Innovations that Can "Fuel" Our Future (Part I)
To reduce our reliance on fossil fuel, the global community needs to boost the presence of sustainable energy significantly. In the lineup of renewable ene...
DEC 15, 2019
Technology
DEC 15, 2019
PLOT-cryo: A High Tech Sniffing Device
It’s no secret that stink is science cooking and so chemist Megan Harries, a postdoctoral fellow and chemist at the National Institute of Standards a...
DEC 15, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
DEC 15, 2019
Will Cannabis Facilities Pollute the Air?
The strong smell of cannabis comes from chemicals that could potentially cause indoor or outdoor air pollution, if not properly managed, a new study finds....
DEC 15, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 15, 2019
2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: an Electrifying Win for Li-ion Battery Pioneers
Light-weight and capable of storing a substantial amount of electricty, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have transformed many aspects of our moder...
DEC 15, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 15, 2019
Electrifying Breakthrough: New Tech Adds 200 Miles to EVs with only 10-Min Charging
One of the most noticeable drawbacks of electric vehicles (EVs) is their long charging time. That's why the U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal to...
DEC 15, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 15, 2019
Scientists Observed the Root Cause of Lithium Batteries Failures in Real Time
Lithium batteries have high energy storage capacity, but sometimes they have unexpected failures and can even cause a fire. A team of scientists at the Dep...
Loading Comments...