Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Dubai startup joins effort to pilot driverless cars in Las Vegas

AI startup Derq is feeding real-time data analytics to Motional’s autonomous vehicles.

Photo credit: DERQ

THE PUSH TO bring driverless cars to the roads has hit some speed bumps in recent years. On the one hand, city planners have touted the opportunity to rethink how cities operate, as electric robotaxis free residents of the need to own a car. But if the transition to autonomous cars is bungled, cities could well end up with streets clogged by traffic, with little room for people to walk, bike, or scoot.

Derq, an AI startup based in Dubai and Detroit, is working to help transport agencies solve that problem. The company, which analyzes video-feeds to draw insights for safer roads, announced Monday that it had partnered with Motional (a joint venture of Hyundai and auto parts supplier Aptiv) to help test its self-driving vehicles in Las Vegas. Motional began testing its vehicles this February, conducting maneuvers including “navigating intersections, unprotected turns, and interactions with other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists,” per a company blog post from earlier this year.

To help Motional continue testing its cars on the road, Derq says that it is installing cameras above busy Las Vegas intersections, and connecting the video-feed to the startup’s AI systems running on roadside computers. By providing Motional’s cars with a bird’s-eye view of the city’s most complex roads, Derq says it can help driverless cars respond to obstacles in a faster, safer way than possible for human-driven cars.

The startup, which says it was spun out of MIT, will also feed more complex data into Motional’s cars. It says that it can detect and alert road operators about dangerous traffic accidents unrelated to AVs, like car crashes and wrong-way drivers. The data it gathers can then help it build a better understanding of safety hotspots on roads, to feed back to Motional’s cars for better routing (and simultaneously provide Las Vegas road operators with information for better planning).

While Derq’s new partnership with Motional is focused on helping Las Vegas strengthen its smart city infrastructure, Derq chief executive Georges Aoude suggested that the trials also stand to benefit Dubai’s goal of transforming 25 percent of its transport into driverless cars by 2030. The startup in 2017 signed a memorandum of understanding with Smart Dubai, the city’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, to use its AI to help prevent road accidents.

“Our partnership together with the city of Las Vegas is just one of many deployments we have planned for the future, and we’re excited to leverage this unique experience to further contribute to Dubai Leadership’s goal to have 25 percent of its transportation autonomous by 2030,” says Aoude.

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