Raquel Urtasun, former chief scientist of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, promised an AI-centric approach to self-driving vehicles when she founded her own company, Waabi, last year.
she Now she has announced her approach to this intractable problem: a virtual world in which she tests her autonomous vehicles called Waabi World. Because there is a long way to go in this sector.
Depending on a large fleet of vehicles traveling millions of kilometers on public roads and collecting data to train AI systems to drive better and safer than humans is expensive and doesn’t capture the infinite edge cases that could confuse an autonomous vehicle.
For this reason, Raquel Urtasun affirms that simulation is cheaper and more efficient than tests in the real world. And to prove it she has created her own virtual world.
Simulation is a critical piece of the autonomous vehicle puzzle. These programs allow Waabi engineers to test common driving scenarios and safety edge cases at scale, the lessons of which apply to the real world.
Waabi World is based on four basic principles: digital twins, or the use of sensor data to recreate the real world in simulation;near real-time fidelity sensor simulation for testing the entire software stack;test scenarios; and teach AVs to learn from their mistakes.
Most companies working on autonomous vehicles do not attempt to simulate data from sensors, including cameras, radar and lidar. And if they do, they often require expensive calculations, which makes it impossible to test them in a closed-loop simulator, explains the researcher.
“In general, the industry opts for physics-based simulators“, he explains. “And the problem with that is that you need to know too much about the world that is very difficult to know a priori, like the properties of materials.”
Waabi it has also incorporated AI adversaries into its simulator for its virtual autonomous vehicle. This involves creating scenarios that the company’s engineers are sure their self-driving driver won’t be able to solve.
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Urtasun described Waabi World as an in-house product that will not be available to any of its future customers. Waabi’s approach is to focus on road transport, using its software to automate driving on routes delivery commercials
This new simulator will help the company get its technology to market faster and cheaper than most companies working today. Or so they believe in the American company.