In Ground Truth, Argo’s autonomous vehicle publication, CTO Brett Browning provides an overview of their new hardware stack.
“Our new SDS [self-driving system] leverages customized components — not off-the-shelf stuff — including high-resolution cameras, lidar, radar, microphones, and inertial sensors, that meet rigorous industry safety standards.”
A few points struck me.
Argo’s new setup includes three microphones, “to effectively listen for emergency responder vehicles.”
Waymo includes these sensors as well. I wonder how else Argo might be able to use audio, beyond first-responder detection.
“The new lidar base contains water jets for cleaning and fans for cooling, allowing the sensors to efficiently operate in extreme temperatures and for the optical windows to be automatically cleaned if they’re ever obstructed by rain or dirt.”
Making sure that all of the sensors is clean is one of those operational details that engineers could ignore a few years ago. But for production vehicles, this becomes critical. Argo must care about this even more than most companies, given its focus on operating in a wide variety of climates.
The post mentions several times that the new stack has computation redundancy.
“We have two independent computing systems that serve to maintain safe operations.”
The description is a bit vague on some important details. It’s unclear whether the secondary stack (labeled Complementary Autonomous Vehicle System — CAVS) is “fail-safe” or “fail-operational.” That is, if the primary system fails, can CAVS complete the vehicle’s route, or does it simply pull to the side safely and wait for assistance?
The post is also a bit unclear as to whether CAVS is a separate and redundant system, or whether it participates in the functionality of the primary system.
“… the computers use different detection algorithms so the backup computer has a unique perception ability which improves the robustness of response in an unexpected situation.”
Regardless of the nitty gritty details, it sounds like this system is a big step forward for Argo!