Argo AI ‘breakthrough’ lidar technology has 400 m range

Argo AI ‘breakthrough’ lidar technology has 400 m range

Market news |
Autonomous driving technology company Argo AI has announced new lidar technology that it says enables its self-driving system to overcome the limitations preventing most competitors from commercializing autonomous delivery and ride-hail services.
By Rich Pell

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By detecting the most difficult-to-see objects from farther away and with more precision with Argo Lidar technology, says the company, its Self-Driving System (SDS) is capable of 360-degrees awareness day or night and can safely drive on busy city streets, suburban neighborhoods, and now at highway speeds. This breakthrough in autonomous vehicle technology was enabled by the company’s 2017 acquisition of a company (Princeton Lightwave) developing an innovative form of long-range lidar.

The result is a sensor believed to be the industry’s longest-distance sensing range capability of 400 meters, with dark-object detection for safe highway driving. Argo Lidar also offers ultra-high resolution perception, providing the photorealistic imaging required to identify small objects for safe operation on complex city streets.

“Argo Lidar takes us to a whole new level of self-driving technology, unlocking our ability to power both delivery and ride-hail services,” says Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI. “The Argo Self-Driving System delivers the safety, scale and service experience that businesses want and their customers demand, especially coming out of the pandemic.”

The innovation behind Argo Lidar is known as “Geiger-mode” sensing. Argo AI’s proprietary Geiger-mode lidar has the ability to detect the smallest particle of light — a single photon — and is key to sensing objects with low reflectivity. This, says the company, combined with higher-wavelength operation above 1400 nanometers, gives Argo Lidar its unique capabilities, including longer-range, higher-resolution, lower-reflectivity detection and full 360° field of view—all from a single sensor.

Alongside custom-designed sensors and high-performance computing, Argo Lidar is offered as the centerpiece of the Argo SDS. It is designed to handle the most complex aspects of human driving, such as:

  • Seeing the darkest of black-painted vehicles—those that reflect less than 1% of light even at long range and in the pitch blackness of night
  • Safely navigating left-hand turns onto roads with oncoming high-speed traffic by utilizing a 360° field of view
  • Managing instant transitions from darkness to bright light, such as when entering and leaving a tunnel, which often temporarily blind human drivers
  • Distinguishing small, moving objects such as animals from vegetation and static objects

The Argo SDS capabilities, says the company, combined with the company’s fleet dispatch infrastructure and operations experience, offer clear advantages when it comes to commercialization:

  • Safe operations in cities, suburbs, and on highways enables connections from warehouses to urban and suburban routes for middle- and last-mile delivery, or service to the most in-demand ride-hailing routes to and from airports
  • Scaled operations based on extensive testing and development in six U.S. cities, with additional cities coming online this year, as well as expansion into Europe
  • Service experience, including address-to-address routing within urban and suburban areas of operation, maximizing effectiveness for deliveries or commuters

Through deep collaboration with automotive partners Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group in the technology integration and development of high-quality, commercial-grade self-driving vehicles, says the company, it can meet the durability requirements for maximizing commercial fleet uptime and improving operations and customer satisfaction.

“We have unparalleled autonomous driving technology and operations capabilities,” says Salesky. “Proving out these abilities every day, across six cities from our nation’s capital to Miami to Silicon Valley, we are ready to enable the next phase of growth for delivery, retail, and ride-sharing partners.”

The company says it is working with a highly experienced contract manufacturer for series production of the new lidar sensor. The first batch of Argo Lidar sensors is already supporting on-road testing of the company’s self-driving test vehicle fleet. Soon, says the company, volume production plans with Ford and Volkswagen Group will lead to the widespread commercialization of autonomous delivery and ride hail services.

Argo AI

Related articles:
Ford’s Argo AI acquires LiDAR maker
Ford to invest $1B in AI startup
Ford, Lyft partner to bring self-driving cars to the masses
Automotive giants Ford, Volkswagen in alliance on e-mobility, AI

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