By on May 23, 2018

Mobileye, the Israeli company that supplies camera-based driver assist technology to a host of automakers, just received a black eye.

While one of its Ford Fusion Hybrid testbeds cruised through the streets of Jerusalem to show off its autonomous driving abilities, the sedan, equipped with 12 cameras (three of them forward facing), four advanced EyeQ4 chips, and a television audience, drove merrily through a red light.

It’s technically not the car’s fault, Mobileye said. It’s the TV crew’s.

According to The Detroit News, the car was outfitted with news cameras from Israel’s Channel 10 before setting out for its journey. A safety driver sat behind the wheel. Despite an otherwise uneventful trip, the media event saw the Fusion sail through a red light without slowing or stopping. (See the video here.)

Technological hiccups, as we’ve seen, are par for the course in this wild and wooly era of early autonomous vehicle testing. Luckily no one was hurt in this incident.

So what caused the test car, which eschews radar and lidar for a suite of cameras and Intel-developed chips, to ignore what it saw? Electromagnetic interference from the TV crew’s onboard cameras (from the camera’s wireless transmitters, specifically) interfered with the signal from the traffic light transponder, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua claims. While the cameras saw the red light, it didn’t jibe with the transponder signals received by the car. Thus, the car ignored the camera.

“It was a very unique situation,” he said in an interview. “We’d never anticipated something like this.”

Shashua claims his company has since fixed the problem, but without saying exactly how. He did add that Mobileye would better shield the car’s computers from electromagnetic interference in the future. The company, acquired by Intel for a ridiculous sum last year, unveiled its Level 4 autonomous vehicle in January.

Just last week, Mobileye secured a contract with an unnamed European manufacturer for its Level 3 “semi-autonomous” driving technology. According to Reuters, the company’s tech will appear in 8 million of that automaker’s vehicles over the life of the contract. Mobileye already has partnerships with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and many other automakers.

As for the Fusions and their Level 4 technology, Mobileye says those systems won’t be commercially available until 2021. In the past, Shashua has said that full autonomy requires a combination of all types of imaging systems: cameras, radar, and lidar.

[Image: Ford]

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27 Comments on “Camera-guided Ford Fusion Sails Through Red Light; Supplier Blames … Other Cameras...”

  • avatar

    I still remember when Volvo had that press conference showing their automatic braking feature, and their demo car promptly smashed right into the back of the truck!

    How far we have come . . .

  • avatar

    “We’d never anticipated something like this.”

    A fitting epitaph for every person killed by one of these things.

  • avatar

    “Electromagnetic interference from the TV crew’s onboard cameras (from the camera’s wireless transmitters, specifically)”
    Sure it did….. sure it did.

    • 0 avatar

      Driving around with a ham radio in the car, I can tell you some cars are very quiet…others, notably FCA products or Nissan, will toss hash all over the RF spectrum. Compared to my old BMW, which was whisper quiet save a low rpm alternator signal (not a whine). Nissans toss hash for a good 30 feet….cheap @ss electrics.

      Were the camera transmitters on a gigahertz (wifi adjacent) link, or was the TV station using a bonded cellular solution, which is far away, radio-wise ? The Traffic Light signals work on 5.9 ghz. It is possible that a TV station uplink could obliterate the Traffic Light transmitter, but that would tell me that the CAR’s system is defective. You can buy a Baofeng radio or a Motorola for the same channels, one will hear everything nearby, on your channel or NOT, the other will still work perfectly under worst case conditions…it’s all a question of how much you want to pay.

      Some specifics, please. What signal from the stoplight was jammed ? Is the light part of the intelligent highway system ? Do all lights need to be part of the system ? Why would an RF signal over ride the optical signal….most lights do NOT have a radio transmitter embedded….

      So, if there’s a media event, your self driving car is useless ? Great, especially if you live in a City. News trucks kill Car, film at 11

      “dog ate my homework”

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, this is the robot car’s equivalent of DUI, and should be treated as such.

      • 0 avatar

        You can’t put electronics or software in handcuffs. There was a human behind the wheel, and he obviously wasn’t doing his job. Having him brake for the red light would have been less embarrassing for the company, and less dangerous. You can put HIM in cuffs, and that would have signaled to people who would use these cars that they’re not absolved from personal responsibility.

  • avatar
    Kalvin Knox

    It doesn’t matter if the TV crew’s cameras did interfere or not. What’s gonna happen next? A self driving car is gonna crash into the side of a school bus because the color yellow frightened it? These beta tests should have never been allowed on public roads in the first place. Hopefully they’ll get banned before something serious happens.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Instead of onboard AV cameras and software reading and translating traffic signals and warning signs, would it make more sense for signals and signs to transmit the information to the AV?

    • 0 avatar

      That is what was supposed to happen in this case. But they are claiming that transmitted signal from the traffic light transponders was “interfered with” by the TV crew cameras.

      So, not only will it be easy to “interfere with” their vehicles’ sensors and receivers (don’t forget lidar jamming), the systems can just ignore secondary/backup interpretations in favor of doing the least safe maneuver, rolling through a traffic signal.

      • 0 avatar

        Great point. This is a perfect example of a “fail-deadly” system, in which the car keeps plowing ahead until it gets a signal from a stoplight. A “fail-safe” system would instead remain stopped until it receives a signal from a clear stretch of road. Like the switch on your walk-behind lawnmower.

        But that would be too inconvenient for these mobility solution pioneers.

        • 0 avatar

          (To be fair, human perception has the same problem to some extent. But I think maybe we undersell our senses. Once we have some driving experience, we are pretty good at realizing when there are gaps in our “sensor coverage”, so to speak, and we compensate for them.)

        • 0 avatar

          This technology is clearly not ready for prime time. I would agree that it should be fail safe at this time, but that will likely bring about another issue. If the car is receiving conflicting or confusing signals, and one of those is telling it to stop, at what point will it figure out that it’s safe to proceed? Or worse, it’s on a freeway and mistakenly perceives some obstacle, causing it to stop abruptly in a travel lane.

  • avatar

    and if some poor bastard had been walking across the street – would that be a “whoops” too?

    • 0 avatar

      They recently set city-wide limit in boston to 25 from 30. They say, lower by 5mpg and save 20% more people. They didn’t calculate for automation offset

      • 0 avatar

        it could be worse. I live in Southern Ontario. The speed limit in my town is 25 kilometers per hour – works out to about 15 of your mph. kids on skate boards pass us, and it’s policed to absurdity. I think the cops are on commission. on the roads out of town it’s all the way up to 40 km/h – about 25 of your mpg. at least it’s good on gas consumption.

  • avatar

    yesterday, at the intersection here, 3 guys sailed through red light. so what?

  • avatar

    You gotta wonder why they thought it was a good idea to rely solely on the transponder and not back it up by actually looking at the light. If the transponder is burnt out for whatever reason, you need a backup to not sail through the light.

    • 0 avatar

      It sounds like their system did look at the light, but the transponder said all was well, so it went. If I were designing a system, if there’s two conflicting inputs you believe the one that says “Danger!”, but that’s just me. Erring on the side of caution is just sooo old school.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Look at Ford… Right up there with Tesla.

  • avatar

    I believe them and this is really my primary concern with autonomous vehicles, especially those that rely on communications (e.g. red light transponders). They can be manipulated. What stops a terrorist from transmitting a similar signal, indicating all lights are green? What else will such folk do to manipulate signals between cars?

    The solution must be able to use “common sense” when such signals don’t jive with reality. I believe we can get there, but I also believe such threats aren’t being addressed at this moment.

    • 0 avatar
      Kalvin Knox

      If these autonomous cars are so susceptible to outside interference, why are they still on the road? What if the guy in the next car over has a CB radio on and the robo car freaks out? What if it freaks out near a school bus?
      I am completely convinced that autonomous cars are destined to fail.
      And I will happily count every day until that happens.

  • avatar

    Well I learned something new here today. Red light transponders exist. Huh. Now, I wonder if any are so equipped in my neck of the backwoods. They have a hard enough time trimming shrubbery in the more residential areas, let alone letting two guys in a pickup going around installing and servicing transponders. Streetlights went LED, so in 20 years, there’ll be no one left on staff with the experience to change them out when failures begin to occur.

  • avatar

    The whole autonomous car trend reminds me of the dot come boom of the 90s. It seems to be based on hype more than functional technology. This is the automobiles version of the gold rush where everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. The autonomous vehicles themselves are comically awkward looking, which feature an array of cameras on the roof. If I ever see on of these on the interstate you can be assured I will stay at least a couple hundred yards away. In a decade this trend will have been forgotten and put in an abandoned closet with the amphibious car.

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