Dubai and Detroit are very different cities, but Derq has made its home in both. The start-up, a MIT-spinoff, uses artificial intelligence (AI) for edge video analytics powering the future of roads for the safe and efficient movement of road users and autonomous vehicles (AVs).
Its platform combines AI and predictive analytics to help eliminate crashes, save lives and create safer and smarter roadways.
Auto Futures has been talking to Derq’s CEO, Dr. Georges Aoude.
“Our mission is to ultimately eliminate road fatalities by providing real-time, predictive analytics and situational awareness. Our analytics platform powers advanced solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and traffic management, which then detect, track and classify AVs and road users to then predict their intent in real-time,” explains Aoude.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agency, more than 90% of all motor vehicle crashes are caused fully or in part by human error.
“Using our patented technology, Derq provides cities and fleets with an AI platform that powers advanced analytics and CAV applications to help improve road safety and better manage traffic in hopes of eliminating traffic fatalities altogether,” says Aoude.
It has live deployments in the U.S., Europe, and UAE, in cities and states including Michigan, Ohio, Nevada and Dubai. Derq has also partnered with global mobility leaders such as Qualcomm, DENSO, and Motional.
One of the next deployments for Derq is in Saudi Arabia. It has recently finalised a $500,000 investment from Wadi Makkah Ventures as part of a pre-Series A round that included several other leading global tech investors.
The investment is designed to help address key challenges and opportunities that will positively impact both the safety and mobility of vehicles and pedestrians across Saudi Arabia.
Aoude comments: “We are excited to be contributing through our cutting-edge AI solutions to improve road safety and mobility in the region of Makkah and across the Kingdom. We also look forward to bringing our smart infrastructure solutions to smart cities across the Kingdom and enabling safe autonomous vehicle deployments at scale.”
The investment brings the total funds raised by the company to nearly $6 million to date.
Obstacles in the Road Ahead
Level 5 AV technology, attained when driverless technology needs no human intervention at any time or anywhere on the road, is still several years away. Level 4 automation, with no human intervention in specific limited areas, is already in operation. However, according to Aoude, the key to scaling is to focus on smart infrastructure in additional to AV technology advancements.
“There are plenty of obstacles the technology of AVs has yet to address including seeing clearly during specific times of the day like dawn or dusk or navigating challenging locations like busy intersections. AV technology also has yet to fully evolve their ability to react appropriately when new and unusual road circumstances arise. This is why the focus shouldn’t just be on AVs, but also in upgrading the actual road infrastructure. Smart infrastructure essentially enables ‘eyes’ outside of the vehicle allowing for greater visibility for AVs,” he says.
Derq uses vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology to create safer roads. V2X enables communication between vehicles, as well as between vehicles and roadside systems for road safety and traffic efficiency.
“Within three-to-five years, this will be a factory feature on almost every vehicle. The ability to send and receive real-time information (e.g., location, speed, predicted movement, etc.) about your own vehicle or other vehicles and vulnerable road users (e.g., pedestrians, cyclists) will provide everyone on the roads with critical safety information that will enable the safest and smartest driving decisions – ultimately saving lives,” explains Aoude.
Taking a Bird’s-eye View
In the U.S, Derq and Motional – a joint venture between automotive technology expert Aptiv and vehicle manufacturing leader Hyundai Motor Group – are testing how driverless technology reacts when given an even broader perspective than it already has via a bird’s-eye view.
Motional’s driverless vehicles process the road environment through a sensor suite of advanced LiDAR, cameras, and radar that see up to 300 meters away, and a full 360 degrees around the vehicle.
“With the support of Derq’s AI and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology, the roads will be even safer as Derq utilizes new and existing cameras placed around busy intersections that connect to Derq’s AI systems. Running on roadside computers, the data will go from Derq’s systems to the Motional vehicles – providing a more comprehensive view of some of the toughest intersections Motional vehicles are navigating. This bird’s-eye view will provide Motional’s vehicles with critical data before they even enter the intersections.”
The goal of the pilot in Las Vegas is to provide Motional driverless vehicles with more data than they currently have.
“A 360-degree view around the vehicle is very important, but a ‘bird’s eye’ view is even better when it comes to keeping vehicles and pedestrians safe. Smart infrastructure solutions like Derq’s are a key enabler to scale the safe deployment of driverless vehicles, and we’re proud at Derq of the value we’re creating for the global autonomous ecosystem by empowering the safest and smartest self-driving decisions,” says Aoude.
Later in the pilot, Motional’s vehicles will receive Derq’s bird’s-eye view data in real time to help inform their driving.
Smart ‘digital’ infrastructure advancements are important to both eliminate road fatalities and enable AV technology at scale.
Dubai has big plans for driverless transport. It wants to a quarter of all its transportation to be autonomous by 2030. In 2017 Derq signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Dubai Government’s Smart Cities and Transport agencies to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of AI-based connected vehicle and infrastructure technologies for road safety on conventional and autonomous vehicles.
It’s currently piloting its smart infrastructure solutions in Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) and with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). It was also one of the winners of the 2019 RTA’s Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport that was designed to catalyse innovation in self-driving technology.
“Derq is collaborating with local and regional telcos providers to pilot 5G enabled edge analytics solutions to enable the scaling autonomous vehicles in the UAE as well provide safety critical insights to road and fleet operators for safer and more efficient traffic management and route planning.”
According to Aoude, urban mobility by the year 2030 is likely to be very different than today.
“Urban mobility will have less congested roads, reduced emissions, and significantly improved road safety, with a mix of fleet of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles. It will also evolve around smart and connected corridors, powered a myriad of 5G, edge and cloud services for improved road user experience, performance, and safety. Governments around the world are building their own vision of urban mobility, with shared goals of a sustainable, equitable, more efficient, and safer transportation.”
“While the new U.S. administration unveiled a significant infrastructure plan this year, some effort is still required to define what’s to come for urban mobility. New electric vehicle charging stations, better roads and bridges have been identified in the plan, but making plans for smart ‘digital’ infrastructure advancements are important to both eliminate road fatalities and enable AV technology at scale,” concludes Aoude