A techie hopes to make his self-driving car vision a reality, writes Izwan Ismail
AT a hipster, garage-like “lab”, one floor above an old row of shoplots in Jalan Kuching in Kuala Lumpur, a group of like-minded youngsters are busy working on and improving a motherboard that can control a self-driving car.
Their head honcho Muhammad Haziq Faris Hasnol, who is also founder of Reka Studios, has a big dream that one day they can put a commercialised self-driving car on Malaysian road, using locally-developed technology. The 27-year-old techie CEO, who grew up in Gombak, Selangor, has been wanting to do this after returning from the Silicon Valley, US, where he worked for Google over a year, to help develop Google Chrome.
He believes the Internet of Things or IoT as many call it, is the next big thing in the technology space. “It’s an untapped technology with a lot of potential,” he says.
To him, IoT is fast driving innovations, where applied mechanical concept and artificial intelligence will drive the way of the world in the future, and it’s already at our doorstep. Haziq, who has a degree in Computer Science from Cambridge University, UK, says his venture into the start-ups world is to give people technologies that can correlate with life.
“The products that we create must integrate with life, hence the name of our company Reka, which is short for Rediscovery Knowledge and Arts,” he says.
Haziq’s interest in technology started in school at Sekolah Berasrama Penuh Integrasi Rawang.
While most students were busy with books, Haziq was more inclined to take apart and put back together the personal computer, but at a more advanced level.
At Reka Studios, his talented team has worked with a few companies to develop IoT products.
These include intelligent LED boards for use by advertising companies.
“We work with Moving Wall, where we embed IoT technology into the boards to capture people’s reaction towards the advertisements shown, for analysis,” says Haziq.
Reka Studios has also worked with a company in Dhaka, Bangladesh to create smart traffic lights that study not just the traffic but also other factors that can affect traffic flow like rain, haze and other weather conditions.
Believing that IoT can one day enable driverless or self-driving car, Reka Studios has kicked off a project to realise the vision.
Using the Reka Studios IoT board, sensors, GPS and videocams, it managed to turn a Proton Waja car into a self-driving vehicle.
“The project is to show that IoT can indeed control cars and that the IoT board we created, actually works,” says Haziq.
Haziq and his team took six months to develop the system for the car, and another month for the mechanical part, as in connecting the system to the steering, petrol pedal and brakes.
The self-driving Waja was showcased at last year’s Kuala Lumpur Engineering and Science Fair in Seri Kembangan, and Selangor Makers and Innovation Carnival at The Strand, Kota Damansara .
“We started by driving around to collect data for the system, such as a drive-through McDonalds. Later, we tested the car on the road from Malacca to KL using GPS, and it worked,” says Haziq.
For safety purposes, there are engineers seated on the back seat of the car to ensure that everything is safe during the test.
Despite the success in proving that IoT can be used on cars, Haziq says the project and technology is still far from completion or ready for market use.
“Whatever we do, it’s just 20 per cent of what it should be in the real world sense,” he says, adding that even giant tech companies such as Google and Tesla took years to perfect their self-driving cars and they are still working on the other areas,” he says.
For a self-driving car to work, there are a lot of factors to consider, not just the technology.
“The car will constantly need information as it moves, and this involves having a lot of standards on the road like standardised signboards, lane lines, road conditions, etc, to help it make the correct decisions,” says Haziq.
The video of Reka Studios testing the self-driving car is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GqStD8DR3E.
Currently, Reka Studios has yet to talk with carmakers about the system, but the team has been collaborating with universities like UKM, UniKL and Nottingham University for initiatives in the IoT area.
FUTURE OF IoT
IoT has a big potential and it’s more than just self-driving cars or connected homes.
Haziq says the electronic industry is moving towards Industry 4.0 where a lot of automation involving IoT will take place.
“Besides that, the revolution of mass electronic products and component production in China will lower the prices of IoT parts, and bring down the overall price of producing IoT products,” he says.
“And in the telecommunications area, the service providers will start looking at IoT services when users demand for connectivity things and machines.”
Thus, Reka Studios hope that it can play an active role in being a provider of IoT solutions, and at the same time explore the potential of IoT in the medical, agriculture and healthcare fields.
Currently, Reka Studios has 10 engineers and two offices, with Kuala Lumpur as its software centre and Malacca for R&D.
The company will showcase its IoT innovations at the upcoming SEMICON Southeast Asia exhibition at SPICE, Penang, from April 25-27.