Driving a thermal-enhanced Lexus RX in Los Angeles

This is the Metal Gear Solid of cars.

1y ago

This is a Lexus RX 450h that's being currently being used as a test mule to showcase thermal-enhanced visual and cameras and the first thing you need to know is there's no technical reason for the flamboyant pink and orange livery. It just looks cool.

This otherwise unremarkable Lexus RX was built by Flir, an Oregon-based company specializing in thermal imagining, and it features a complex visual system comprising radars and 10 cameras. Six of these cameras are mounted on the roof along with a lidar. The lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is basically a radar, just a little more complex because it uses both light and pulsed laser to measure ranges. All six cameras come with thermal and nocturnal vision which is not affected by weather or brightness, meaning they will detect movement and temperatures even in pitch dark.

The lidar (and radars in general) is one of the best systems in the world for detecting an obstacle and even though it isn't very good at telling you what the obstacle actually is, it is extremely reliable when it comes to making you aware there's something in the way. This is where the visibility cameras kick in. There are four mounted on the front part of the roof rack, providing you with both long-range view (around 2-3 miles) and wide-angle view. Then, once visibility cameras have established what the object might be (people, lampposts, animals, etc), the thermal cameras help you understand whether the object is likely to interact with traffic or not, a deer coming from the woods for example. The whole system utilizes something called Neural Network, which is a fancy alternative to the term "AI", which means the computer has been trained to recognize an object and the information has been hard-wired into its "brain".

Flir say the idea is to utilize all three elements for Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous vehicles. The radar detects an obstacle, the visibility camera tells you what it is, the thermal camera tells you whether it is moving or not. Visibility cameras cannot tell the difference between a life-size poster or an actual person, thermal cameras can.

Left to right, top to bottom: visibility cameras, thermal cameras, radar and 360° thermal cameras

Left to right, top to bottom: visibility cameras, thermal cameras, radar and 360° thermal cameras

It's a very clever system and I'm not even sure I have the intellectual capacity to explain it to you properly so I'll just get back to the car for a minute. The RX450H features a 3.5 L V6 working with an electric unit for a combined power output of 308 hp. Flir say using a hybrid car was a necessity because the computers, the radar and the cameras simply cannot be charged by using the 12V on board battery charger.

The company also said they've got a contract with, and I'm quoting, a "well-known manufacturer which we can't name" and they're going to provide said manufacturer with this technology for an upcoming vehicle in 2021.

I think it's pretty cool. It is 2020 motoring and whether we like it or not, it's happening. Might as well tag along.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments

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Comments (6)

  • full autonomous driving will likely never happen on open road ( it need consciousness and it is impossible to be achieved in algorithmic/digital computer) , that's why Koreans are starting to make roads adapted for "autonomous vehicles" ...

    But these are going to be good driving assisted systems ...

      1 year ago
  • Nice article. This tech is the step in the right direction towards full autonomous driving. Glad to see someone is working on it. The best part is, the more of this tech that is sold the cheaper it will be over all markets. Eventually it will be in all cars ‘for safety’ anyway.

      1 year ago
    • In my opinion self driving cars can and should be utilised in certain situations and environments, But Right now they’re a Million miles from being ready for use on public roads Because in traffic we make millions of tiny decisions...

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        1 year ago
    • I have used off-road auto steer for the better part of 9 years now. There is plenty of shortcomings. It is an incredible tool. But the systems in place on a Tesla currently and even Cadillac for that matter I would agree are insufficient for use...

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        1 year ago
  • #ev #future #reviews #events

      1 year ago