Sensors Driving the Uber Self Driving Car

by on August 30, 2016

Uber Self Driving Cars Top View

I have had a bunch of questions from friends about how the Uber self driving car works. The simple answer is that I don’t know. I have no relation to, or inside knowledge of what Uber is doing. However I can look at the outside of the vehicle and try to guess what sensors I can see. I have only seen a Uber self driving car once, it was driving by as I was driving in the opposite direction, so I did not get a good view. That means that this post is based on images found via google.

These pictures are based on the Ford vehicles. There are some news stories about a deal to get 100 Volvo cars for the main passenger service. There are a few Volvo pictures out that seem to be CAD (ie. drawings) and not actual images. Those show significantly less sensors and a cleaner integration. It makes sense that initial vehicles are a testbed to figure out what sensors you actually need and to help with mapping. Then the “production” vehicle would have far fewer sensors (and cost less to manufacture). I should also point out that many pictures I have seen are slightly different but are of a similiar design.

So here is an unorganized list of what I see.

  • Velodyne 64 LIDAR(2.2 Million points per second):
    Mounted to the highest point of the vehicle
  • Velodyne PUCK LIDAR (only 300,000 points per second):
    Front bumper center
    Left side of top sensor pod
    Right side of top sensor pod
    Fin near rear passenger door
    Fin near rear driver door
    Center of rear bumper
  • Cameras (I would estimate a little over 20 cameras on the vehicle):
    1 forward camera on upper car deck
    6 on top deck looking forward (lenses appear to be different, in 1 of the pictures it seems a camera hole might not have a camera)
    2 on top deck looking front left
    2 on top deck looking front right
    2 on top deck looking rear left
    2 on top deck looking rear right
    2 on top deck rear facing
    Maybe manufacturer cameras integrated with the side mirrors and rear facing. Not sure if Uber would be using them.
  • Smaller dots near 6 cameras and on other parts of top deck: Are they mounting holes or sensors?
  • Antennas:
    Located on top deck (Maybe Laird):
    4 short black
    4 slightly taller black
    Maybe used for a local wifi, a wifi to communicate with other cars, a wireless e-stop, RTK (for improving GPS position), some for redundancy and/or multiple frequencies.
  • GPS (I know these are antennas and maybe should be added to list above):
    3 on top of the trunk(or boot for some folks)
    1 in the center of top deck. Possibly used with a rear GPS to get heading.
    They look like Garmins
  • In the rear center of the top rack I can’t tell if there is a sensor, or if it is just a mounting bracket.
  • There appears to be something clipped to the front bumper. I am not sure if that is a sensor, or if it is a laser (maybe IR, would the sun wash an IR laser out??) projecting a pattern for a camera to detect.
  • 4 dots on back of the vehicle could be manufacturer backup alert sensors. Some pictures also appear to have them on the front. I don’t think Uber would be using those.

Here are a few things I did not see, but you might find in the vehicle:

  • RADAR’s. I expected to see some to help in dusty, foggy, rainy, etc… conditions. They can be easier to hide.
  • An encoder added to one of the tires. Most images I find are of the passenger side, are they hiding it on the driver side??
  • Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for getting the roll and pitch (ie. the angle) of the vehicle and position estimation.
  • I would not be surprised if there was a camera (or two) in the vehicle
Charging Port

A reader sent in this picture showing a charging port.

I hope you found this list interesting. If you know more about what sensors are in use leave it in the comments below.

Here are the main image I used for the list above:
Uber Self Driving Cars Top View

Uber Self Driving Cars Side View

Uber Self Driving Cars Side View

Uber Self Driving Cars Rear View

Links to images above:

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