Tiziano Albani, the head of VIA Europe, recently sat down with the leading Italian automotive industry publication Autoprove.it to talk about the future of autonomous driving and VIA’s strategy for addressing the needs of this fast-growing market.
Here is an English translation of his comments. The original Italian interview can be found here.
1) What are the main technological developments and solutions for autonomous vehicles that are already capable of making a combined use of 5G, AI, AV, and Cloud Intelligence?
5G, AI, AV, and Cloud Intelligence technologies have reached a state of maturity that means all manner of semi-autonomous and autonomous driving scenarios are now possible. The next major challenge is accelerating the deployment of the vehicles and attached mobility services. Since the rollout of 5Gis still in its very early stages, for example, it is going to take some time before the technology widely adopted in autonomous vehicles. Figuring out sustainable business models will also be a challenge for autonomous vehicle manufacturers and operators. A lot of experimentation will be required!
2) Which do you think could be the use cases able to drive the sector in the short-medium term?
The fact that more people are staying and working at home now is placing a heavy burden on the logistics and last-mile delivery industries to be larger, faster, and more responsive than ever before. This is leading to an explosion in demand for cloud-based fleet management platforms that can track the vehicle location and monitor driver behavior in real-time to maximize responsiveness and safety.
The growing pressure firms and drivers are under to speed up goods deliveries is also creating a growing need for AI-powered accident prevention and warning systems featuring ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System), surround view video, and driver monitoring technologies. New government safety legislation and programs such as the Vision Zero and the FORS scheme in the UK will also be a major factor in accelerating the adoption of AI-powered safety systems for all types of commercial vehicles.
3) Will safety and driver assistance systems also be used in vehicles that still have a human driver?
A growing number of ADAS features such as Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning are already a standard component of many new passenger and commercial vehicles. As computer vision, AI, edge computing, cloud, and other technologies continue to advance, more of these autonomous driving features will be added to improve the driver experience and vehicle safety.
In the commercial sector, we expect that fleet operators will also integrate smart safety devices such as the VIA Mobile360 AI Dash Cam into their existing vehicles to minimize the possibility of accidents, reduce operational and insurance costs, and meet new regulatory requirements.
4) Which are the technological challenges that VIA Technologies is focusing on to meet the trends of the sector?
Making it easy for fleet operators to integrate our VIA Mobile360 Systems into their cloud-based fleet management platforms is one of the key technological challenges we are focusing on. Recently, for example, we introduced our VIA Fleet AWS Cloud SDK to eliminate the need for device-side development and enable quick and easy cloud connectivity using the APIs included in the package. This can save customers up to six months of software development time, significantly reducing deployment costs.
Another key technology we are working on is sensor fusion. This involves integrating cameras, radar, and other sensors into a single Edge AI system for a specific application such as detecting nearby obstacles in a busy warehouse or a person coming too close to the vehicle on a construction site. Extensive machine learning optimization to match the specific needs of each usage model is required. Customer needs can vary greatly depending on the target application and environment.
5) Who are your main partners and what is your development plan, especially in Italy?
We are seeing widespread global adoption for our VIA Mobile360 in-vehicle systems across multiple sectors. In China, for example, we recently signed a strategic agreement with King Long, one of the world’s top five bus manufacturers, to accelerate the deployment of 5G and autonomous vehicle innovation for next-generation mobility applications in their home base of Xiamen and beyond. In Japan, we are working with one of the country’s leading taxi service on the deployment of AI safety devices for the vehicles in their fleet.
We are experiencing growing worldwide demand for our VIA Mobile360 D700 AI Dash Cam for fleet management and a wide variety of other applications. In Europe, for example, we are talking with customers in the fleet management insurance and segments to combine AI vision capabilities with video recording for the interior and exterior of vehicles. In this way, operators of public and private transportation can obtain evidence of any accident or incident of verbal abuse that may occur and easily demonstrate who was responsible for it. Insurance companies can even capture and analyze the full dynamics of a crash including the type of physical stress experienced by the vehicle’s passengers.
In Italy, in addition to the insurance and fleet management companies, we are also working with forklift and agricultural machinery manufacturers to add ADAS functions to their existing fleets of vehicles to increase the safety and reduce the operating cost.
As smarter working models become more popular, vehicle sharing among family members and company employees is sure to take off. With the VIA Mobile360 D700, insurers can use features like facial recognition to create customized payment models that set premiums according to criteria such as the age and experience of the driver.
In short, with its AI and cloud integration features the device will enable insurance and fleet management companies to develop many more services than the ones they can offer today with a “black box” unit that don’t provide any visual functions.