Woven Planet, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), is following Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) in attempting to enhance self-driving technology with low-cost cameras.
According to Reuters, Woven Planet is able to collect data and effectively train its self-driving system using cameras, a “breakthrough” that the company thinks will help lower costs and scale out the technology.
It added that gathering different driving data using a large fleet of cars is crucial to establishing a viable self-driving car system, but testing autonomous vehicles alone with pricey sensors is costly and not scalable.
Other sensors, like as radars and lidars, are still used by Woven Planet for training and long-term deployment.
While Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo and other self-driving car companies added pricey sensors like lidars to a small number of vehicles, Tesla has been relying on cameras to collect data from over 1 million vehicles on the road to develop its autonomous driving technology.
“We need a lot of data. And it’s not sufficient to just have a small amount of data that can be collected from a small fleet of very expensive autonomous vehicles,” Michael Benisch, vice president of Engineering at Woven Planet, said in an interview with Reuters.
“Rather, we’re trying to demonstrate that we can unlock the advantage that Toyota and a large automaker would have, which is access to a huge corpus of data, but with a much lower fidelity,” said Benisch, a former engineering director at Lyft’s (LYFT.O) self-driving division, which Toyota purchased last year.
Woven Planet employs cameras that are 90% less expensive than the sensors it previously employed and can be simply put in passenger car fleets.
It claimed that incorporating a majority of data from low-cost cameras improved the system’s performance to the same level as when it was trained purely on high-cost sensor data.
He did say, though, that for robotaxis and other autonomous cars to be deployed on the road, Toyota will continue to use numerous sensors such as lidars and radars, since this appeared to be the best and safest strategy at the time.
Toyota and Aurora are also working together to test an autonomous ride-hailing fleet based on Toyota Sienna minivans that are equipped with lidars, radars, and cameras.
“But in many, many years, it’s entirely possible that camera type technology can catch up and overtake some of the more advanced sensors,” he said.
“The question may be more about when and how long it will take to reach a level of safety and reliability. I don’t believe we know that yet.”
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, stated that the company will be able to achieve full autonomy with cameras this year, despite missing his previous targets numerous times.