One of the USA’s leading self-driving truck companies TuSimple has announced the development of a proprietary automotive-grade camera and vision system that will go into volume production shortly and will be deployed on the company’s autonomous customer fleet by the summer.
As TuSimple’s entry into hardware design, the system offers enhanced reliability of autonomous operation and is a necessary step in the company’s quest to commercialize the first driverless truck. Featuring Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation’s state-of-the-art automotive CMOS image sensor, the custom designed camera system allows for reliable night and low light autonomous operation.
Adding nighttime operation to TuSimple’s already industry leading 3,280ft (1,000m) perception system will enable fleets to increase truck usage from an average of 50%, or 12 hours per day, to an average of over 80%. TuSimple plans to increase its US fleet to 50 trucks by June, with more to follow.
The new camera system is designed for the company’s fully-autonomous SAE Level 4 trucks and is an important component of TuSimple’s ability to scale, especially as the company moves beyond its validation phase. It has made use of Sony’s automotive CMOS image sensor to create a set of camera systems for short, medium and long range that use TuSimple’s software to detect and process sharp images in real time over half a mile (1km) away. The system addresses complex imaging challenges such as instant light changes when entering and exiting tunnels, flaring during sunrise and sunset, and headlight glare. It also handles the LED flicker created by digital signage and traffic lights.
The new camera system is designed to Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL)-C, which is important for the validation of safety-related electronic systems that must be highly reliable in specific driving conditions as outlined in the ISO 26262 Functional Safety standard. As the system integrator, Sunny Optics will test the product and module, as well as develop and manufacture the automotive-grade product.
TuSimple is the only self-driving truck company running daily fully-autonomous commercial routes from depot-to-depot, which requires both highway and local street driving. The company currently has 11 trucks in the USA and will have 40 trucks in fully-autonomous operation by June, making it the largest self-driving truck solutions company worldwide. The company now makes three to five fully autonomous trips per day for customers on three different routes in Arizona, with an additional route from Arizona to Texas due to come online soon.
“Like human drivers, autonomous trucks’ perception systems are challenged by a wide variety of light conditions which are experienced every day while driving. We weren’t able to find a camera system on the market that fit our needs, so we created one,” explained Dr Xiaodi Hou, founder, president and chief technology officer at TuSimple.
“The combined expertise of Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation and TuSimple has created a perception system that sees better than the human eye, night and day, rain or shine, in the most challenging driving conditions.”