We sat down with AEye’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Allan Steinhardt, to learn about the challenges of using publicly available defense technologies in autonomous vehicles, the current state of automotive LiDAR, and the technology that most excites him today…
An IEEE fellow, Dr. Allan Steinhardt is a sought-after expert on radar, missile defense, GMTI and space surveillance. He was Chief Scientist for DARPA, co-author of a book on adaptive radar, and assistant professor in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, where he performed funded research on sensor arrays and optimal detection capabilities. Dr. Steinhardt is a member of the national academy of Science Naval Studies Board, and recipient of the US Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He has also served as chief scientist at Booz Allen, the radar project lead at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and director of signal processing for the defense Industry with BAE/Alphatech.
Q: What technologies developed by DARPA, and other agencies, have been adapted for autonomous vehicle use?
The technologies developed by DARPA that have been of value to both LiDAR and other kinds of sensors for autonomous vehicles are: the solid-state laser, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), and the computer chips that are able to do all the processing. So, all the building blocks required for the development of autonomous vehicles have their humble beginnings at DARPA. But there’s the system point of view as well. Many of the systems that are being developed now were started by the government. Biomimicry was also a big investment at DARPA. When I was there, we went on to create a separate office on biomimicry, looking at different biological systems and emulating them for various purposes.
Q: What challenges have we faced trying to adapt defense technology for autonomous vehicle use?
One obvious challenge the industry currently faces is bringing down the cost of these technologies for commercial use. Another is miniaturizing these technologies to fit inside a vehicle, as opposed to a fighter jet or tank. However, one issue that we never really considered in the government that is coming to the fore today is the amount of power it takes to do the processing. We generally weren’t thinking about green vehicles that don’t use a lot of gasoline. But nowadays, the processing is becoming so sophisticated in autonomous vehicles that it’s literally eating into fuel efficiency.
Q: How are we mitigating these challenges?
Q: Is automotive LiDAR where you thought it would be today?
Q: What new technology are you most excited about?
Q: What have you seen as the biggest difference between working in Silicon Valley and a US Defense Agency?
Join us on April 18, 2019, when AEye’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Allan Steinhardt, gives a keynote address entitled “Life in the Fast Lane: What’s different about transportation AI?” at Bootstraps Labs Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference in San Francisco. Learn more here.