Analog Devices, Inc. and First Sensor announced yesterday that they are teaming up to hasten progress in autonomous driving by working together on LiDAR applications.
According to Stewart Sellars, ADI's general manager of LiDAR, “The first step in our working together is to optimize ADI’s industry-leading transimpedance amplifiers (TIAs) with First Sensor’s avalanche photodiodes (APDs) so we can offer our customers more powerful and efficient LiDAR solutions, and better support the mass commercial launch of LiDAR systems into the autonomous transportation market."
Image from Analog Devices
While the technology that will be developed through this partnership will have obvious applications in autonomous cars, it will also be suitable for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and unmanned aquatic vessels, as well.
An initial goal of the collaboration is to develop products that shrink the LiDAR signal chain and enable higher performance as well as lower parts count, weight, and power requirements. The enhanced technology will serve industries such as transportation, smart agriculture, and industrial manufacturing.
Analog Devices—sometimes known simply as ADI or “Analog”—is a leader in developing technologies that translate real-word phenomena into digital or analog signals. A somewhat recent development is the LTC6561, multi-channel TIA designed specifically to convert wide dynamic range photocurrent from APDs into low-impedance voltage signal.
Schematic of a "typical application" of the LTC6561. Image from the LTC6561 datasheet
The unit utilizes a 5-volt power supply and draws only 200 mW. It utilizes an internal 4-to-1 MUX and multiple 4-channel LTC6561s can be combined to directly interface with 8, 12, 16 and 32-channel APD arrays.
First Sensor’s Capabilities
LiDAR APDs are highly sensitive detector arrays that convert light into photocurrent, and First Sensor has over 25 years’ experience in manufacturing these devices.
First Sensor’s Series 9 APD’s for LiDAR feature a very high sensitivity in the near-infrared (NIR) wavelength range, especially at 905 nm. These APDs have large dynamic range and fast rise time, which make them highly suitable for LiDAR systems for optical distance measurement and object recognition according to the time of flight method.
A Match Made in Heaven?
Optimizing the interconnection between the APDs and TIAs is critical as it significantly influences the noise floor and bandwidth achieved. Improvements in these two parameters directly translate to LiDAR systems that can detect objects at longer range and with higher precision.
According to Dr. Dirk Rothweiler, CEO of First Sensor, “The market for LiDAR systems is maturing with customers expecting a renewed focus on implementing economically and technically compatible solutions.” He goes on to state that, “Adapting APDs and TIAs to each other is a logical next step in this evolution."
For ADI’s part, the cooperation with First Sensor is the next phase in the company’s Drive360 autonomous driving solutions strategy. LiDAR is described as a key pillar in this new area of business.
Underscoring this new partnership, the two companies will offer a common evaluation board with which system manufacturers can test the combined solution.
Around the Industry
Automotive LiDAR is one very hot area for the electronics industry and the collaboration between ADI and First Sensor (unsurprisingly) isn’t the only partnership. In my article on ams's solid-state LiDAR VCSEL, I covered another collaboration between companies each possessing a complementary “pieces of the pie” is discussed.
At Sensors Expo 2019, going on this week in San Jose, there are some companies that are talking LiDAR solutions, such as Ours Technology, Toposens, Excelitas Technologies Corp., and Innovusion Inc. Compared to the previous year, however, LiDAR is surprisingly quiet.
What's your connection to LiDAR? Have you designed LiDAR systems? Have you seen an interesting application with LiDAR recently? Share your thoughts in the comments below.