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Continental uses AI to give vehicle systems human strength

A basic requirement for  sophisticated advanced driver assistance functions and automated  driving is a detailed understanding and precise assessment of the  entire traffic situation. To allow automated vehicles to assume control  from drivers, vehicles must develop an understanding of the imminent  actions of all road users, so that they can always make the right  decision in different traffic situations. This task is best performed by  training algorithms using deep machine learning methods.

At the  CES Asia, Continental will be exhibiting a computer vision platform  that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), neural networks and machine learning to improve advanced sensor technologies. Continental’s fifth  generation of its multi-function camera, which will begin series  production in 2020, will use neural networks alongside traditional  computer vision processes. Depending on the available hardware,  these can be scaled and refined, and using intelligent algorithms they improve the scene understanding involving the classification of the  intentions and gestures of pedestrians.

“AI plays a large role in taking over human tasks. With AI software,  the vehicle is able to interpret even complex and unforeseeable traffic  situations – it’s no longer about what’s in front of me but about what 
could be in front of me,” says Karl Haupt, head of the Advanced  Driver Assistance System business unit at Continental. “We see AI as  a key technology for automated driving. AI is a part of an automotive future.” Just as drivers perceive the environment with their senses,  process this information using their intelligence, make decisions and  implement these using their hands and feet to operate the car, an  automated vehicle must be able to do all this, too. This requires their  capabilities to be at least on a par with those of humans.

Artificial Intelligence opens up new possibilities for the computer  vision platform: For example, AI can detect people and interpret their  intentions and gestures. Continental uses AI to give vehicle systems  human strengths. “The car should be so intelligent that it understands  both its driver and its surroundings,” says Robert Thiel, head of  Machine Learning in the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems  business unit. An example illustrates what this means: A rule-based  algorithm within an automated driving system will only react when a  pedestrian actually steps onto the road. AI algorithms can even  correctly detect the intentions of an approaching pedestrian in  advance. In this regard, they are similar to an experienced driver who  instinctively recognizes such a situation as potentially critical and  prepares to brake early. It is about developing a full understanding of  the scenario, with the help of which, predictions about the future can  be made and reacted to accordingly.

Just like humans, AI systems have to learn new skills, humans in a  driving school, AI systems using “supervised learning.” To do this, the  software analyzes huge amounts of data to derive successful and unsuccessful strategies for action and later apply this learned  knowledge in the vehicle. This essential ability of the algorithms to  learn is continually being developed. For advanced driver assistance systems, data suitable for this kind of learning is available in the form  of recorded radar and camera signals from real driving situations, for  example. This huge database is a key component of the further development of AI at Continental. For example, the company relies  on AI in its product development departments to perform extremely  complex tasks such as pedestrian detection to learn the concrete parametrization of this design from huge quantities of data. This  requires the creation of a system that combines and parametrizes the  data input i.e. the millions of pixels in a camera image used for  pedestrian detection. The second step involves enabling this system  to search every combination of the parameters that solves the  problem.

The technology company will begin large-scale production of this  system with its fifth camera generation, with the previous camera  generation already using deep learning approaches. Methods based  on deep learning contribute to the mastering of this complexity on  various levels – from vehicle surrounding monitoring to planning the  driving strategy to actual control of the vehicle. Deep learning  methods are also scalable, which means more data, more computing  power, and therefore more performance.

In 2015, Continental set up a central predevelopment department to  coordinate the various research activities focusing on artificial  intelligence. The technology company is collaborating with NVIDIA,  Baidu and many research institutes in this field, including the  University of Oxford, the Technische Universität Darmstadt and the  Indian Institute of Technology Madras (India). In Budapest (Hungary),  the Continental Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit  opened a competence center for deep machine learning in May 2018. 
By the end of 2018, the technology company will employ around 400  engineers with special AI expertise worldwide and is looking for more  talented people for product and process development in the field of artificial intelligence.

Continental will be demonstrating pedestrian intention and gesture  classification at the CES Asia from June 13–15 (hall N5, stand no.  5702, Shanghai New International Expo Center).