Alberto Broggi: with my chip your car will drive itself

Alberto Broggi: with my chip your car will drive itself

The pioneer of the self-driving car is an Italian. He has been studying and working in the sector for 25 years. He anticipated Google by ten years, with his Waymo and all the competitors. And after at least ten self-driving car prototypes with which he has faced impossible challenges, such as going from Parma to Shanghai in a car driven by a robot, today he has decided to take on the real challenge: which is to bring this technology to the series machines.

Is called Alberto Broggi is 56 years old, was among the first in the world to deal with self driving. Today transforms production cars into self-driving vehicles thanks to a chip unique in the world, small with high performance, low consumption, less than a 60 watt bulb, and low cost. To be installed directly on the cars.

It does everything. It processes images, makes decisions, defines a trajectory, plans manoeuvres. "If you want to scale, you have to miniaturize the technology and lower costs". The chip is installed in a "box" the size of an A4 sheet, to be placed in the trunk.

"Today self-driving cars need a lot of computational power. Try to open their trunk and you will find powerful servers, some are liquid cooled, i.e. heat dispersion occurs through liquid. In short, a mess. A chip with such high performance and low consumption will change everything. We will introduce the chip-based system at CES in Las Vegas in January 2024and it will be a game changer"

Why are you doing it? "The number 1 reason is for safety"

Broggi is talking to all the car manufacturers. The goal is for those who build cars to integrate it directly. "The hard part is that we are small. Our competitors are not self-driving companies, but big tech companies that make chips. Giants like Intel, Nvidia".

Alberto Broggi's is the fabulous story of a visionary, competent and passionate, who sets out from Parma, travels around the world, without ever leaving Emilia Romagna. Engineering degree. With two university classmates, Broggi started working on an image processing project, which had been the subject of his thesis. Meanwhile he becomes a professor and on the University campus, with a group of students, creates Vislab (Artificial Vision and Intelligent Systems Laboratory). We are in the mid 90's.

In 1997 install two video door phone cameras on a Lancia Thema and a year later he toured Italy, a sort of Mille Miglia, automatically. "It was the world's first experiment in autonomous driving with a system made up of parts available on the market. They thought we were crazy. The first time a news program covered us, it broke the news at the end, after that of the fattest cat of the world. In short, the self-driving car was a circus phenomenon".

In 2009, he established the Srl. In 2010, he made a trip from Parma to Shanghai with an automatic vehicle. "We were sitting in the back, ready to take over." Just before arriving in Shanghai, Google announces that Larry Page and Sergey Brin are working on the self-driving car. Broggi and his team, instead of getting depressed, rejoiced. "It was a huge sign that we were on the right track."

In July 2015, he decides he has to grow up. Travel the world. Talk to everyone. It has a line of companies that want to acquire it. Google calls him, meets Elon Musk in California. "He phoned me himself. We met, I mounted our technology on his Tesla." In the end Broggi sells his startup to Ambarella, Nasdaq-listed Silicon Valley company that makes chips for artificial intelligence.

Exit worth 30 million dollars and one condition: the team must stay in Parma, in the place where everything was born. "It's the thing I'm most proud of. Having kept top-level talent in Italy, who could have worked in the best companies in the world. I knew that the team worked here, if they had transferred us I wasn't so sure anymore"

Broggi remains in charge of the project. Today he is general manager of Vislab, a 100% American company. Two years ago, he resigned from his position as a university professor. He continues to do what he has been doing for years but with greater vigor, energy and intensity.

"The progress we have made in the last 5 years, thanks to deep learning and artificial intelligence, has been incredible. In these years we have understood many things. A lot about perception. The computer perceives everything on the road very well, but We're working to help you learn to predict the moves of other vehicles."

In his pedigree, Broggi has two great things: passion and optimism. He always speaks with a smile, he infects you with his passion for him. "I always have that feeling that everything can be solved. We are engineers and if there is a problem, we will engineer ourselves to solve it. I like to think I can give the guys who work with me, not so much the knowledge, but the right way to tackle the problems. And team up"

"Many years ago, I saw a 1940s drawing of a car that traveled without a pilot, while a group of passengers played cards. That's when I started wondering how to make a futuristic idea come true. Today, that he less and less futuristic idea continues to fascinate me.We will be able to program driverless tractors and cultivate all the lands of Brazil, Chile, Australia. We will be able to give food to the whole planet. It will be a disruptive technology, which will have a strong impact on society and will completely change the automotive sector. I'm happy to be inside."

"One day it will be forbidden to drive. When I say that, they almost insult me. But wasting time and putting ourselves in danger, following two lines painted on the ground, using 100% of our physical and mental faculties to do something that a car can do better of us, it will be prehistory. An inefficient and dangerous activity. It takes at least two more generations to be able to accept this thing. Because it will be a radical change". Then she smiles in an incredible way and says: "Come and see me in Parma and I'll show you how to drive a robot. Drive like you can't imagine!".

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