The split screen image tells two dramatically different versions of the same story. On one side the view through a conventional camera showed a barely visible vehicle on a dark street. On the other, what could not be clearly seen in the first image became crystal clear: moving vehicles and pedestrians—all obstacles an autonomous vehicle or one equipped with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) would need to “see” to avoid an accident.
The more revealing image was produced by a thermal camera system called Viper created by Israeli start up Adasky and its CEO Yakov Shaharabani believes the little device that costs around $100 is both a game changer, life saver and a vast improvement on current emergency braking systems.
“Adasky’s dream is to save lives,” said Shaharabani in an interview. “In my opinion the thermal camera is the next air bag.”
The Adasky thermal camera uses what’s known as far infrared light waves to detect differences in heat naturally emitted by objects and converts the data into images. Indeed, the camera can detect heat differences as small as 0.05 Celsius and can detect objects as far as 300 meters at night and in harsh weather conditions according to Shaharabani.
He points to a 2019 report by the Triple A that concluded “Evaluated pedestrian detection systems were found to be ineffective within a low-ambient light environment. This finding is consistent with limitations described within the owner’s manual of each vehicle.”
According to the report, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in vehicle crashes in 2017 and 75% of the fatalities occurring in the dark as compared with 21% in daylight and 2% at both dawn and dusk.
“If we want in the next decade to reduce the number (of pedestrian traffic deaths) we must reinforce a better sensing suite for emergency braking systems,” said Shaharabani.
The problem, he argues, is that the usual array of sensors in autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles that may include radar, Lidar and cameras simply cannot detect obstacles such as pedestrians, cyclists and some other vehicles in snowy, rainy night and foggy conditions, but, he says, the Adasky cameras can.
Bat-Chen Herchkovich Ben Simon, Adasky’s director of business development, marvels at the thermal camera’s ability to detect even portions of a pedestrian such as the head or an arm, gushing, “it’s amazing how much you can see.”
Adasky CEO Yakov Shaharabani makes it clear, however, his company’s thermal camera systems should not stand alone, and should be mandatory, saying, “we believe we are must sensors for ADAS and AVs. In any case there will be a sensor suite. We are an enabler for some cases you cannot solve.”
In October, the company announced it had secured $15 million in Series B funding. Backers included existing shareholders Kyocera Corporation and Sungwoo-Hitech Co.
With that backing, Adasky is moving quickly to make its systems widely available. It is building its first production plant in Israel with plans to expand globally, with Shaharabani noting, “our challenge is not demand, it’s the ability to support demand.”
That demand, he says, is coming from wide interest from several automakers he would not name and expects the camera will be available in production vehicles in 2023 or 2024. The company is “aiming” at a price range of about $100 for each sensor depending on production volumes which Shaharabani expects to be “high.”
How high? Well, the former Israeli Air Force pilot who retired as a general declared, “we are now in the thermal camera revolution.”