Interview: Nicolas Du Lac, CEO of Intempora

Nicolas Du Lac, CEO of Intempora

As part of the Self Driving Track Days project, we are keen to bring real industry experience out from behind closed doors and make it available to the next generation of potential engineers and innovators in the driverless technology sector.

Nicolas du Lac is the CEO of Intempora – Multisensor software solutions.  Graduated in 2000 from the famous engineering school Mines-ParisTech in France, with a major in Robotics. He was quickly recognized for his skills in development software and algorithms and worked for a few months at the CEA (the widely respected French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) as software engineer, and joined Intempora in 2001

The company had just been created based on the RTMaps technology (Real-Time Multisensors Applications), developed initially from the Center of Robotics of Mines-ParisTech.

The company’s Chief Technology Officer since 2002, he led the development of multi-sensor software solutions and participated in numerous research project as DARPA Urban Challenge (Dotmobil Team) with the INRIA research institute in 2007.  Due to his work and involvement in the company, he was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Intempora in June 2012.

Today, he manages the strategic and the embedded software development for ADAS and automated driving.

Tell us about the company – where are you based and what do you do… We understand you have a long background in autonomous software development?

Intempora was created in 2000 based on the RTMaps software framework which core technology has been developed from 1998 at the Center of Robotics of Mines-ParisTech. Researchers were already working on computer vision and data fusion algorithms for perception applications in ADAS and Autonomous Vehicles prototypes.

At this time, we were working on Pentium computers, with PAL analog cameras and first samples of Lidar and radar sensors.

Now the market is booming and we have accumulated more than 15+ years experience in developing software solutions. This long experience allows us to propose a mature and easy-to-use solution with unprecedented execution performance for testing and the development of complex algorithms, ADAS applications and Automated Driving systems.

What about Artificial intelligence?

There is much hope around artificial intelligence and encouraging results. However, it is still uncertain how to integrate such algorithms in autonomous vehicles and put them on the road, particularly when it comes to validation and certification against the ISO26262 standard.

At Intempora we are working on solutions with partner such as dSPACE to provide testing and a validation toolchain to allow the management of high volumes of recorded sensor data in large-scale computing architectures in an efficient manner.

This year started with lots of activity at CES – you were there – what were the highlights?

It is fun to see how the autonomous vehicles topic is now trusting the generic Consumer Electronics Show (apart from the thousands of IoT startups which were there as well). Most of our customers and partners were there and presented really nice demonstrations on so many topics (new sensors at LeddarTech, new systems for perception at VALEO and NAVYA, driver HMIs at Visteon, simulators at ESI-Group, communication, safety and security, etc.) It was interesting as well to see how companies like NVidia could present their GPU technologies used for both gaming and machine learning for Automated Driving.

RTMaps is your main product for managing sensor fusion, what other systems does it work with?

RTMaps (Real-Time Multisensor Applications) is not only a sensor fusion tool, it really helps developers build multimodal applications faster and in an efficient way (advanced HMIs, driver monitoring, communication systems,…). It is a generic software integration tool with hardly no overhead in terms of CPU consumption and a huge set of off-the-shelf software components to be integrated in a few clicks. It allows for your team (engineers, researchers, students) to focus on advanced algorithms and on managing multiple high-bandwidth data streams from various sensors (cameras, LiDARs, radars, CAN bus, GPS, Eye trackers, Biometrics, etc…), you can easily reduce costs and development cycles on your algorithms.

We have recently opened the RTMaps Components Store and the accompanying partnership program to go one step further and propose a way for algorithms and function providers to deliver their code in the form of RTMaps components, hence facilitating their integration and test in customer applications. Anyone interested in joining the ecosystem as technical partners is welcome.

Do you work with Car brands (OEMs) or always with Tier 1 and other Tier 2 companies?

We definitely work with OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies, but also with universities, education and research institutes. We work more and more outside of Europe with customers in the US and in Asia. This is boosted with the recent partnership we established with dSPACE, for instance.

All this ecosystem is coherent and the benefits of efficient software tooling for their internal developments but also for establishing partnerships, exchanging software modules and datasets.

Of course these companies have different activities and use our software solutions in different manners (from sensors and systems testing and benchmarking up to real development of advanced embedded systems).

This is a great opportunity for us to adapt our solutions constantly to provide efficiency and ease-of-use in different environments and of course a better user experience.

Note that RTMaps is also used in totally different domains such as race sailing ships! Half of the vessels racing on the Vendée Globe 2017 was equipped with RTMaps!

When do you think we will see driverless vehicles regularly on the road?

Everything depends on what we call “driverless vehicles”. We are still at the beginning of the release of eyes-off automated vehicles (vehicles which can follow a lane, or reproduce well known path while avoiding obstacles). Most demonstrations take place on highways in the US, but vehicles which can safely drive in unpredictable scenarios, adapt their behaviour in unknown situations (weather, urban circulation) while achieving reasonable speeds are still a long way to go. There are still a lot of efforts to be done before we are be able to sleep quietly in autonomous cars.

What are your plans for 2017?

It will be another very exciting year for us with the planned release of a major version of RTMaps embedded and a new great product from our dSPACE partners dedicated to ADAS and Automated Driving. The company, the business and the team are growing and the technology is rapidly improving. We have recently changed our support service to be more efficient. We will continue to work hard to propose a better user experience to our customers, we care to listen them and enhance our solutions.

We have already planned many events as well. We will be at the Autonomous Vehicles Technology World Expo in Stuttgart in June, maybe at AutoSens Brussels in September and Tech.AD Detroit in November.
We also work on great projects around machine learning systems validation such as Cloud LSVA with IBM, INTEL, TASS, Tom Tom, Valeo, Ertico, CEA or Vicomtech and some European universities.

Why is Intempora supporting Self Driving Track Days?

Self Driving Track Days is a great opportunity for us to show our solutions during workshops and demonstrations.
We have 15+ year history in these application domains, our solutions were embedded in robotics and semi-autonomous vehicles since 2002.

Right now, it’s important for us to offer expertise and share views with numerous engineers and researchers from the domain. This series allows us to meet directly engineers, researchers or students.

Finally – what advice would you give people interested in having a career in vehicle perception and driverless technology?

Have fun and put your passion at the service of people. AI and software for autonomous vehicles are building the future of transportation. For sure, transportation and mobility will be the next revolution.

The competition is hard but necessary to offer the best for everyone. I can’t wait to see what the next decade will look like

See you at SDTD in France, England and Austria!