One of the most difficult tasks for a self-driving car is getting onto and getting off of a busy highway. For most autonomous vehicles that “are crawling around coffee shops at 20 miles per hour,” explains Amit Nisenbaum, CEO of Tactile Mobility, a Haifa-based startup company that hopes to give smart cars the ability to “feel the road” the way humans do.
Tactile Mobility (formerly called Mobi-Wize) has raised $10 million and is working with five car manufacturers, including Ford. And a new partnership with the city of Haifa has equipped 10 municipal vehicles with Tactile Mobility’s software.
As these cars (parking-enforcement vehicles, among others) travel around Haifa doing their normal business, they’ll also be grabbing data passively on potentially hazardous road conditions and sending that data to Haifa’s road planners. The city pays Tactile Mobility “by every mile that we map,” Nisenbaum says.
Modern vehicles are as much software and sensors as they are steering wheels and brakes. Your car is already tracking how much it weighs at any given time, how tightly it’s gripping the road (including in slippery conditions), whether the car is bumping up and down as it travels over potholes and how steep a hill is.
Tactile Mobility collects all that data from a vehicle’s sensors and crunches it to create what Nisenbaum describes as “actionable insights that give the vehicle better context.”
Enabling an autonomous vehicle to feel the road will make it easier for self-driving cars to travel faster and handle those highway on- and off-ramps.
“If companies like Mobileye or Innoviz allow smart and autonomous vehicles to ‘see’ the road to make driving decisions, we augment that capability with the tactile sense,” Nisenbaum tells ISRAEL21c.
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