Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has shown how an AI-powered smartphone can drive a car.As Ivor Bennett reports, the ‘RoadReader’ project, on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, aims to demonstrate how existing mobile technology is capable of handling autonomous vehicles. Video provided by Reuters Newslook
BARCELONA — I’m a passenger in a Porsche Panamera riding on a short track set up outside Barcelona’s soccer stadium. There’s no human being at the wheel. But what makes this particular driverless car demo unique is that it is being piloted by Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro smartphone.
The Chinese smartphone maker, the third largest in the world, insists it is not getting into the self-driving car business. Instead, here at the Mobile World Congress trade show, Huawei is using the demo as a marketing vehicle to promote the company’s prowess in artificial intelligence and object recognition technology, already built into the phone.
“This is pushing the boundaries of what a smartphone can do. It’s a proof of concept,” says Peter Gauden, senior product marketing manager for Huawei Technologies.
Huawei says it put the project, called RoadReader, together in only five weeks.
The technology doesn’t only teach the phone how to drive, but to avoid the objects that may come in the car’s path.
The company placed a camera in a box on the roof of the car, which scans the road ahead and wirelessly streams imaging data to the smartphone mounted above the dash. The Kirin 970 chip inside the phone (which includes an NPU or neural processing unit) serves as the “eyes” and brain inside the driverless car.
According to the company, if an obstacle matches one of the 1,000 entries in the object recognition library that the phone taps into, then the Mate 10 would “know” what the object was, and maneuver around it accordingly. If not, the phone can be trained to recognize an object through deep learning.
After signing a waiver, my demo consisted of two short runs. The first, in which I rode solo at just 5 mph, was for the purpose of training the vehicle to recognize and avoid the objects during my drive—boards with pictures of bicycles and dogs on the track were used for this purpose.
Then, before my second run, I instructed the phone through an app what to do if the car would encounter any of the objects it recognized: have the vehicle swerve right, swerve left or stop. The phone sends a series of command to the robotic system in the vehicle (e.g. apply the brakes, turn the steering wheel) to allow this to happen.
During my second run, in which I was joined by a representative from Huawei, the car sped along at 30 mph, and swerved or stopped accordingly as directed. The Porsche could have gone faster, of course, but was kept at that speed for insurance purposes.