Hi-resolution LiDAR gets compact and affordable

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

High-resolution LiDAR is critical to navigate autonomous cars and provide vehicle safety. Velodyne expressed its expectation that the VLS-128 will become the new standard for fully autonomous cars and cars equipped with advanced safety features because of the quantity of data it produces in real time at top speed.

A LiDAR sensor such as the one Velodyne introduced provides real-time 3D images all around the vehicle, far into the distance, producing billions of data points eagerly understood and consumed by a computer. LiDAR systems are said to be more reliable, based on measurements, and therefore more accurate than a camera based safety system. 

Velodyne LiDAR, Inc. founder and CEO David Hall invented the 360-degree solid-state hybrid LiDAR ten years ago to use and sell in the Darpa Grand Challenge. He designed and sold the HDL-64 LiDAR, which since then became the gold standard LiDAR for the autonomous car industry. However, the system is said to be rather expensive. “Such as sensor costs almost as much as a small compact car alone”, an insider disclosed to eeNews Europe. For this reason, many companies across the industry are working on compact solid-state LiDAR sensors that do not require moveable parts and therefore can be produced and sold much cheaper.

In past September 2017, Velodyne offered sneak previews of the VLS-128 dense picture to select customers attending the IAA Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany. An upgrade to the HDL-64, the VLS-128 offers a richer image with four times the data points and density than the HDL-64. This will enhance the ability for object detection and collision avoidance while traveling highways speeds, by gathering of billions more data points traveling in real time.

Size matters: The VLS-128 is a 70 percent size reduction from the HDL-64, with double the range and four times the resolution.  It is the highest performing LiDAR sensor on the market in terms of its ability to deal with a complex environment, Velodyne claims. Due to its 905nm technology, it operates in dry climates and wet environments, and is based on mass-produced CMOS semiconductor technologies. It is produced today at Velodyne’s Megafactory in San Jose using a proprietary fully automatic laser alignment and manufacturing system. Future models will also be produced as part of Velodyne’s Tier-1 Automotive Program.

Cost matters. President Marta Hall adds, “We are getting the cost down. It is already dramatically reduced, and more so when ordered at higher volumes. Into the future, LiDAR will be affordable and put on cars worldwide for safety and autonomy.”  

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