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Self driving cars? When, not if

Last week I attended the AutoSens conference in Detroit. AutoSens connects technologists in all disciplines of vehicle perception to network, collaborate, solve shared challenges and develop advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) technologies more rapidly. The event brings together engineers from several engineering disciplines including automotive imaging, LiDAR, radar, image processing, computer vision, in-car networking, testing and validation, certification and standards, AutoSens is a collaborative environment geared towards supporting engineering activities.

The conference had a collegial atmosphere and ideas were exchanged freely. For most of us the idea of a self driving car is still an abstract concept but conference participants were discussing technologies, testing, configurations, standards and legal issues. In other words, for the participants the idea of self driving cars is a matter of "when", not "if". Estimated time horizons were usually under ten years.

Whatever the time frame there is no doubt that the technologies demonstrated at the conference will have an impact beyond the automotive world. Artificial Intelligence that communicates among cars and is capable of "deep learning", intelligent sensors that can reconstruct images from scattered light (think fog) and the ability to change the direction of light without mechanical means were only a few of the many exciting technologies on display.

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