Watch Torc Robotics' Autonomous Car Share the Road with Pedestrians

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【Summary】Self-driving cars have had a rough time sharing the road with pedestrians recently, but Torc Robotics shows off how its self-driving car dealt with Las Vegas’ busy streets in an impressive display.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jul 31, 2018 8:15 AM PT
Watch Torc Robotics' Autonomous Car Share the Road with Pedestrians

Pedestrians continue to be a tricky thing for autonomous technology to get down. After Uber's incident where one of its self-driving Volvo's struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz. the focus on autonomous vehicles is how they can share the road with people. While current technology can detect other vehicles and is starting to get good at detecting cyclists, pedestrians continue to be a sore spot. 

Pedestrians, cyclists, and human drivers are tricky things to get right. We're unpredictable, acting almost erratically at times. And it takes us years to understand that, for us to be able to know that we should look out for bad drivers and to share the road with others. It's not that simple for computers. But that's what makes Torc Robotics' demonstration that much more surprising. 

The History Behind Torc Robotics

Before we get to the interesting video, here's some background information on Torc Robotics, which is a less-known company in the autonomous scene. Torc Robotics was founded by a group of Virginia Tech students who built three autonomous cars to compete in the AUVSI Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. The students placed first, second, and third in the competition and led them to found the company. 

While that story doesn't make it sound like Torc Robotics could compete with the likes of major tech companies, they took to the streets of Las Vegas to demonstrate how well their system works. The company's autonomous vehicles, like many others, use radar, cameras, and LiDAR. The system, as Digital Trends claims, utilizes NXP TEF810x and MPC577xK chips to "boost its perception capabilities." 

What Makes Torc Robotics' System Different

The chips, reportedly, help Torc Robotics' autonomous vehicle to not only identify a person, even at nighttime, but also helps it know what to do in the specific situation. According to the video below, the company utilizes sensors and deep learning to detect and classify people to help predict their movements. 

Obviously, being able to predict what humans do next is advantageous for the company's driverless machine, as people, which is clearly evident in the video below, are sporadic. Some cross the road at the crosswalks, while others jump out of a car in the middle of the road and dart across a busy street. Being able to stay one step ahead of pedestrians is what makes the company's system so unique. 

That doesn't mean that the autonomous vehicle can't deal with traffic, though. In the video, the company states that they "balance assertiveness and safety around other vehicles…with caution around pedestrians." It really does look similar to a way that a human would drive, which is something that other companies are aiming for. 

Based off of the video, we're sure we'll be hearing more about Torc Robotics in the future. 

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