Startup awarded $5 million to build autonomous car that ‘runs on light’

Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), an agency of the US military akin to Darpa, is funding a $4.8 million project spearheaded by Boston University College of Engineering, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Lightmatter, a startup developing “photonic supercomputing” chips.

Electro-photonic computing, or optical computing, is thought to hold the promise of solving one of the biggest technical hurdles that self-driving cars face today – delivering high performance, low latency computing power that is also energy efficient.

At the end of the IARPA-funded experiment, the scientists hope to have “a fully functioning prototype of a self-driving car that runs on light”…

The team’s hybrid electro-photonic approach has been motivated by the development of photonic chips that compute using photons, not electrons, at speeds on the order of tera operations per second, while consuming much less energy.