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Building and testing a self-driving vehicle live on a public road for just $700

Gagandeep Reehal, co-founder and CTO/CEO of Minus Zero

The Minus Zero team claims to be the first company in the world to test a self-​driving vehicle live on unregulated Indian roads (with Level 3 autonomy). This was done in just four months with a budget of only $700 by retrofitting a rented electric three-wheeler rickshaw (pictured above).

The team has identified two major problems faced by the self-driving industry. The first is a high dependency on data, which causes AI models to fail in unseen scenarios, leading to crashes. The second is the need for expensive computation and sensory hardware (high-end processors on vehicles, costly lidar sensors, and supercomputers for model training). Both are addressed by Minus Zero’s nature-inspired AI, which it claims replicates human intuition artificially to address the first issue, and because it is less data-dependent it resolves the second issue of expensive data acquisition.

Another innovation was the proprietary algorithm that can extract 3D information like depth, velocity, and acceleration of surrounding objects from a 2D video feed of a monocular camera only, thus eliminating the use of expensive depth sensors like lidars entirely, decreasing capex on a single-vehicle.

“It’s easy to build something new when you have billions on the table,” said Gagandeep Reehal. “The real challenge of innovation is to make it viable for equitable access to everyone, making it economically feasible enough without compromising on the robust purpose it intends to solve. We took this up a year ago to deliver a driverless vehicle out in the wild for under $700. It might be a small step in this giant ecosystem, but it’s a stealth beginning of a larger vision of bringing the future of mobility sooner than it appears.”

Ref: Engineering & Technology