The Hidden Face of Technology | Manufacture of microchips and software for self-driving cars

Self-driving cars are still a dream, but many people are working hard to make them a reality. Such is the case of Pierre Olivier, Chief Technology Officer at LeddarTech, whose headquarters are in Quebec.

Posted at 6:00 am

Martine Letarte

Martine Letarte
Special collaboration

The expectations for the performance of self-driving cars are high. Very high. To pass the social acceptability test, they have to do better than humans, more or less. Therefore, to achieve this, the industry is striving to develop a range of sensors such as cameras, GPS systems, radar and lidar. Then you have to merge all the collected data in a software to be able to process it in real time to have a precise idea of ​​what is happening around the car. In addition to lidar sensors that detect objects using a light signal, LeddarTech is developing such software.

“We work with the specifications of the customer. Generally quite accurate, he could mention, for example, that we need to develop a sensor capable of detecting a pedestrian 200 meters away, with a volume of less than 200 cubic centimeters, which costs less than 200 dollars to manufacture and which has a lifetime in a car that has been in use for 25,000 hours and works from -40 to 105 degrees Celsius,” explains Pierre Olivier.

Since customers want to outperform the market, their expectations are naturally very high.

It is often necessary to negotiate certain elements of the specification with the customer according to the technology available today. But what is certain is that we work with the most modern materials and strive for their highest performance.

Pierre Olivier, Chief Technology Officer at LeddarTech

Software development is also a major challenge. LeddarTech actually creates a three-dimensional environment model in real time, updated between 10 and 30 times per second, depending on the customer’s needs, by processing data from the different types of sensors that are present on the cars.


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, THE PRESS

A car from the company LeddarTech

“We have two cars in Quebec and two in Israel that are equipped with different sensor systems, and each of them collects more than two terabytes of data in one hour, which would normally take days to transmit,” explains Charles Boulanger, CEO of LeddarTech. But the software must make instant decisions without making mistakes. Robustness in the transmission of information is essential. »

Crucial validation work

Whether we’re developing a microchip or software that will one day drive autonomous cars, mistakes are not an option.

The development cycle until the production of a microchip that is built into a sensor is very long. The manufacturing process for these chips costs millions of dollars, so you have to work hard and make sure the plans you give the customer are good.

Pierre Olivier, Chief Technology Officer at LeddarTech

With software, the risks are even greater. “A bug in the software can be catastrophic,” says Pierre Olivier. And it’s harder to predict the effects of a bug in software than it is in a microchip. »


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, THE PRESS

Pierre Olivier, Chief Technology Officer at LeddarTech, in his company’s vehicle

To meet these challenges, the company’s engineering team of more than 250 people works with a V-shaped development cycle, where each phase of the design process is followed by an appropriate validation phase. “Each line of code is checked, which results in functional tests,” explains Pierre Olivier.

According to the World Health Organization, around 1.35 million people die in traffic accidents worldwide every year.

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