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UC Irvine grad works to make a self-driving car costing under $10,000

UC Irvine grad works to make a self-driving car costing under $10,000
This demo vehicle is a self-driving car developed by PerceptIn, a company co-founded by UC Irvine alumnus Shaoshan Liu. (Courtesy of Shaoshan Liu)

A UC Irvine alumnus is trying his hand at creating affordable self-driving vehicles with PerceptIn, a company he co-founded in 2016.

Shaoshan Liu, 33, said the company's demo vehicle will debut on the global market this year.

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At its manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China, PerceptIn is developing vehicles capable of sensing their environment and navigating without human input. They include several traits that set them apart from competitors, Liu said — most importantly, the cost: less than $10,000.

A big cost-saver is the use of an internal camera instead of a remote sensing method placed on the roof and costing up to $80,000, Liu said.

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With help from Liu's UCI graduate advisor Jean-Luc Gaudiot, the company also is using heterogeneous chips that can assign tasks to different computing units in the vehicle.

"If we were to try and do autonomous driving with conventional computer chips, it would consume a lot of power," Gaudiot said. He added that heterogeneous chips help decrease energy use and heat.

Liu, who received a Ph.D. in computer engineering and several other degrees from UCI, expects autonomous cars to become common and necessary.

But there's still a lot of work that PerceptIn and other companies need to do before a person can buy a fully autonomous vehicle. Not only do they need to research and develop but also must consider legal and ethical standards.

California's rules for testing autonomous cars require a human behind the wheel.

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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