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Autopilot on a car from Sberbank - impressions and reflections

Hello.

During the St. Petersburg economic forum, Sber Auto Tech offered those who wished to try out their autopilot, from

Cars were brought to Moscow, and all the action took place on Krestovsky Island, not far from the Gazprom Arena.

By announcing free registration for trips,companies were faced with the fact that in a matter of hours all available time periods were taken apart. Initially, five cars were brought to St. Petersburg, but then they decided to increase their number, on the second day additional cars left Moscow, as the demand turned out to be frantic, people wanted to ride on autopilot, form their opinion about it.

He took advantage of his official position and askeddirector of the company Andrey Vasilevsky to organize a trip. I rode on autopilots of various companies - Yandex, Waymo and about a dozen others, including a taxi, which already provides services in China, but I didn’t try Sberbank, I had to fix it.

While waiting for the car, chatting about this and that, I found out thatmany people came without registration, asked to ride, because they were interested, but they could not register on the site. They tried to ride everyone, on the first day there were heavy rains, the weather was extremely unpleasant. Despite this, many people made it to the island, and out of 120 planned trips, 100 took place. The choice of the site is interesting because it is easy to get to, plus there are no restrictions, as in the forum, in a word, democracy for everyone.

Discussing the hype around new technology,I thought that the first film of the Lumiere brothers was not long, did not represent a special artistic value, but people went to look at the technology that was supposed to change the world in the near future. And she changed our world, there is no doubt about that. Exactly the same story here, people come not just to ride in a car, but to see what the technology looks like that can change the world around us.

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The route around the park takestwelve minutes, there are no busy roads, but there are other cars, a lot of people crossing the road. An employee of the company sits in the driver's seat, he is needed for safety net, but the car turns the steering wheel on its own, everything happens automatically. Having taken the back seat, you need to buckle up, then press "Start" on the big screen, and you go on a trip.

On the passenger seat, the screen does not give out much.information, draws objects that he identified along the road and on the road - cars, people, something else. On test drives, machines collect petabytes of information, which is then analyzed and labeled, this is how technology works for any company. It is necessary to teach the software to identify cars and other objects on the road, which is not as easy as it might seem at first glance, since the mathematical description of certain objects is very different from the visual one, a digital cast may look strange to the human eye. While chatting with the driver, while driving along the road, I noticed that the software incorrectly identifies some items, for example, a transformer box standing by the road turned into a truck, although it was not. It’s definitely not worth treating prototypes as a finished commercial product, cars are ready for trips in cities, but there is still a huge layer of work ahead - digitizing situations and objects, creating algorithms for certain actions.

There is dense traffic at the Sberbank training ground, unliketo that on test races in St. Petersburg. According to Andrei, cars sometimes “see” something and get scared, there is an abrupt stop, or they rebuild. This is a common story related to the code and handling situations when you need to link together all the information received from the sensors, have time to quickly process it and immediately issue it back. The most promising is the creation of local networks that can autonomously process typical situations. Today, a huge computer is installed in the trunk, water cooling, fans are spinning, and even in the cabin you can hear how it makes noise.

Five years ago in Las Vegas at CES I looked ata similar server from Intel, it occupied most of the trunk, today everything is not so massive. But all the same, the autopilot requires remarkable computing power, and most importantly, the computer must work 24/7, it must have redundancy, because otherwise the machine can just get up and stop working. Well, if this happens while parking, but while driving, this is simply unacceptable.

Each creator of the autopilot designs his owncomputer on your own, engineering know-how is enough here, and only at first glance it seems that these are trifles. There are no boxed solutions that can be used here and now. Different companies offer their solutions, but everything always rests on their cost. The main goal of any autopilot builder is to reduce the overall cost of the system so that it is economically viable.

It is clear that initially autopilots will come tofreight transport, and only then appear in taxis and cars. But testing autopilots is easier in cars, so the development path for everyone is more or less the same.

On those machines that were shown in St. Petersburg, there are four Velodyne lidars, they are clearly visible in the light.

Cameras provide all-round visibility, cars alsohave radar. Full stuffing, familiar to such autopilots. Since these are prototypes that they constantly work with, Sberbank is proud of some solutions that they invented on their own. Andrey speaks with great pride that in Russia engineering solutions are at their best, people have ingenuity.

The top caps are hinged, the driver canpress the button and unlock the lock. Something needs to be tweaked or looked at - they pressed the button and got access to the compartment. Inside, insulation from water is made, and a system is thought out so that condensate does not collect, since cars drive in different conditions, they can get from a cold street into a warm parking room.

Usually, over such decisions, the laymanironically, they say, we can’t do anything, so we invent that this is something significant, we give additional weight to our inventions. Having traveled half the planet, I can safely say that this kind of "fiction" always brings additional advantages to production or cars. It is not enough to have hardware and software, you also need to be able to properly place them and remove the influence of the outside world.

At the beginning of the 2000s in Suwon, at the Samsung plant, I sawa local invention, on the conveyor a number of machines had built-in cooling fans, they periodically broke down, and the line could stand up if there were several such breakdowns. Fans were consumables, but it was necessary to understand that they were out of order (there were no smart components then, everything was extremely simple). The workers came up with the idea of ​​tying ribbons on fans, and when they worked, it was clear that they were blowing air outward, the ribbon hovered in the air.

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But if the ribbon disappeared, it was immediately necessarysend a technician to change the fan. Such nonsense made it possible to avoid stopping the line due to such breakdowns. I don’t remember the exact number, years ago, but the chief engineer of the plant said that downtime decreased by about a day a year. For the conveyor line and for the plant, this is a lot of money. Do not underestimate simple solutions, they also have value, and considerable.

Many interesting things were discussed in connection with the stateand the prospects for autopilots in Russia, but then I realized that our conversation fits into a separate material, there is no desire to interfere with everything in one heap. Let's get back to my trip.

On the road we had two interesting moments.The first was that in an empty area, where there were neither people nor cars, our car suddenly veered quite sharply. At that moment, I looked at the road and did not expect this, the feeling is unpleasant. I asked the “driver” what happened and why, he said that there was a pothole on the road and the car considered it an obstacle. That is, where a person would continue to go straight and would not twitch, the machine has now made a different decision. And here we again return to the fact that it is required to train the system, to put into it the ideas we need about beauty. Autopilot in the future is not so much hardware, although it will be an important component, but software. How it processes events, what style of driving the car has and what you can choose (sport mode or normal, soft driving so as not to shock yourself, or something in the traditional style). Little thought is given to this, but it is the software that will determine the convenience of the machine, and not just the iron component. The closest analogy sounds simple - today you and your friend may have the same model of car, but the level of comfort on the road depends on your driving style, how you know how to handle a piece of iron.

Another moment from our trip that happenedrandom, but well shows the importance of the software. A jeep was parked by the road, and a fairly large boat was on the trailer. Our car visually identified an obstacle, it appeared on the screen, but having already passed a car with a trailer, for some reason it decided to change lanes to the right, although there were no reasons for this. The same software that needs to be finished.

It is important to emphasize what to evaluate todayautopilot by the standards of a commercial product early, you can throw out the baby with the water. All companies are still very far from a commercial product, but in this race everyone is betting on their strengths, the market is huge, and there is enough room for everyone. Neither one, nor two, nor three companies will be able to serve this market - the more there are, the better for everyone and the faster the direction will develop. Today, investments in the creation of such technologies are noticeable, only a few in Russia can afford them, Sberbank is, for obvious reasons, one of such companies. And here I wanted to say something important, about what usually remains behind the scenes. For many, the perception of Sberbank stems from acquaintance with the bank, moreover, it took place twenty years ago and the stereotype of perception does not change, stretches from year to year like a train. Sber Auto Tech is a kind of startup, and the mood inside is exactly the same, the guys are no different from Waymo or the same Yandex, lively and smiling, no corporate sadness and puffing out. Perhaps this moment of mood within the team is extremely important for startups that build new technologies, formalism kills everything, you don’t notice it right away. It is clear that this is an observation of a third-party person who has not immersed himself in the company, but it is usually impossible to simulate this, you definitely feel the mood, and if there is an affectation of feelings, it immediately crawls out.

Pulled a couple people who just sawSberbank cars and drove them, everyone has a certain delight, they describe the experience as something new. Ordinary people who were walking in the park and decided to walk up to the cars and look at them. And it's cool that there is such a popularization of technologies, and people are interested in them, this story leaves no one indifferent.

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