The technology that is necessary to enable vehicles to sense what is around them and react quickly enough to amass a stellar (though not perfect) driving record is impressive.
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is similar to radar. Radar, which was a potent tool in World War II, works by bouncing radio waves off an object. The bounce back reveals that the object indeed is there and determines its distance and speed. LiDAR uses the same principle but substitutes laser light for radio waves.
Ars Technica says that Alphabet spinoff Waymo’s self-driving cars create a 360-degree view by having the LiDAR sensor spin around atop the car. The story says that this is the approach used by most self-driving vehicles, and adds interesting background on the evolution of LiDAR. The goal now is to drive down the cost of these vehicles. This means finding less expensive approaches to LiDAR, which is the most expensive single element of the navigation system.
Bloomberg says that Waymo claims to have cut 90 percent from the cost of its LiDAR technology and that testing in California has revealed great increases in performance.
It’s interesting that self-driving cars in general and LiDAR in particular are getting buy-in beyond cutting-edge companies. Continental Automotive, which EE Times describes an “an old-line tire company,” is also in the game.
At CES 2017, the company described its vision, which includes high-resolution LiDAR, augmented reality (AR) and smart tires. A quote from the company’s corporate technology officer says that LiDAR provides a picture of “the environment” while tire sensors report on the conditions of the road. These inputs can be combined to provide a comprehensive picture of what the car is experiencing.
LiDAR is not just for the top of cars. This week, automotive headlight manufacturer Koito Manufacturing and LiDAR maker Quanergy Systems announced a deal to collaborate on a headlight concept that includes Quanergy’s S3 solid-state LiDAR sensors. The headlights, each with two of the Quanergy devices, will be at each corner of a car. From those vantage points, the press release says, they will provide “3D views of the environment around the vehicle and the ability to recognize and track objects.”
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.