Lero signs autonomous car partnership with major French autotech firm

28 Feb 2018

From left: Dr Martin Glavin, Lero researcher at NUI Galway; Dr Ciarán Hughes, senior expert in computer vision, Valeo; and Dr Edward Jones, Lero researcher at NUI Galway. Image: Andrew Downes/Xposure

Lero is moving into the world of autonomous cars as part of a partnership with Valeo.

There is a rush now among car manufacturers to get the right technology in place for the eventual release of autonomous cars, and a team of Lero researchers from NUI Galway is among those looking to make its mark.

The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) software research centre announced that it has signed an autonomous vehicles R&D partnership with Valeo, a major automotive supplier headquartered in Paris.

The research will focus on helping autonomous vehicles to better navigate in complex, real-world conditions using sensor signal-processing technology.

As part of the deal, a team of up to 30 Lero researchers and Valeo engineers will base themselves in Tuam, Co Galway, where the latter already employs 1,100 people.

In support of the programme, the Lero contingent at NUI Galway will hire 10 PhD researchers and two postdoctoral researchers.

The project team will be headed by Dr Martin Glavin and Dr Edward Jones of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, while Valeo’s senior expert in computer vision, Dr Ciarán Hughes, will lead the French company’s research team.

Speaking of what this partnership aims to achieve, Glavin said: “Working with the Valeo R&D team, our research aims to develop sensor technology that can see further and adapt to difficult driving conditions such as fog, heavy rain and darkness.

“It will also be designed to better deal with real-life road situations, such as cyclists, pedestrians or animals wandering on to the road.”

Different road conditions

This type of work is crucial, Jones added, because much autonomous car development has been made in countries where such weather conditions are infrequent.

“While autonomous vehicles are currently operating successfully in several locations, particularly in the US, this is often under road landscape and weather conditions very different to the more complex city and rural environments that would commonly be found in locations such as Ireland or elsewhere in Europe,” he said.

Those attending NUI Galway might want to keep an eye out for a semi-autonomous car that is expected to be driven around campus as the technology develops.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic