From Flash LiDAR to Mergers, the Road to Advancing LiDAR Looks Smooth
Leading companies are unveiling new solid-state LiDAR sensors to meet the requirements of state-of-the-art autonomous cars.
Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) uses optical waves to precisely sense objects in 3D, making them a useful technology in autonomous vehicles. In recent years, mechanical LiDAR sensors have been incorporated into autonomous vehicles to achieve wide field-of-view (FOV) scanning.
However, mechanical LiDAR sensors cannot meet the requirements of advanced autonomous vehicles because they have poor signal sensitivity, higher maintenance costs for moving parts, and poor performance in bad weather conditions. To overcome these limitations, companies like RoboSense are now unveiling new flash solid-state LiDAR sensors.
RoboSense has developed automotive-grade solid-state LiDAR made with in-house chips. Image courtesy of RoboSense
Flash solid state LiDAR uses a photodetector array to capture an entire scene within a single shot without scanning. In addition, a photodiode array enables a LiDAR sensor to use time-of-flight (ToF) calculations to accurately measure the distance of an object and its angular resolution. Flash solid-state LiDAR also offers a higher measurement rate than mechanical LiDAR.
This article discusses some recent state-of-art LiDAR announcements and how companies are leveraging the technology to push forward innovation in autonomous systems.
Flash Solid-state LiDAR With No Moving Parts
RoboSense has introduced a new flash solid-state LiDAR sensor named RS-LiDAR-E1 (also known as E1). The company unveiled the new LiDAR solution during RoboSense's Tech Day event in Nov. 2022. E1 was designed using RoboSense’s in-house, custom-developed chips and flash technology platform.
To achieve better detection performance, reliability, and cost efficiency, RoboSense incorporates area array transceiver technology in the LiDAR solution. According to the company, E1 is the first automotive-grade flash solid-state LiDAR with no moving parts.
The product features a horizontal and vertical field of view (FOV) of 120° and 90°, respectively. While the wide horizontal FOV enables 360° coverage area without blind zones, the vertical FOV eliminates all blind areas and enables perception area to cover less than 15 cm blind zones on the ground. This makes the solution suitable for detecting low objects such as curbs and speed bumps. The vertical FOV also enables a panoramic perception of both sides of a vehicle.
RS-LiDAR-E1 is designed to achieve panoramic perception and eliminate blind areas in all scenarios. Image used courtesy of RoboSense
E1 also features an ultra-high frame rate of over 25 Hz. Thus, when vehicles navigate a blind area reduction environment, the LiDAR solution could still provide great perception results. What’s more, E1 features a wide detection range of more than 50 m. This enables autonomous vehicles to detect other high-speed oncoming vehicles. The company, however, stated that the detection range is 30 m and 20 m at 10% standard reflectivity for both right and left turns, respectively, in unprotected left-turn scenarios.
Furthermore, in an attempt to accelerate the production of high-tech precision LiDAR sensors, RoboSense has launched the first and only China National Accreditation Service (CNAS)-certified LiDAR lab. According to the company, the LiDAR lab tests and analyzes LiDAR components after fabrication.
During the Tech Day event, Robosense also revealed Luxsense, a key component in its smart manufacturing system. Luxsense is a joint venture with electronics manufacturer Luxshare.
Solid-state-based Near-range Blind Spot LiDAR
Another company making strides in advancing LiDAR sensors for ADAS vehicles is Hesai Technology. Hesai recently introduced a fully solid-state LiDAR sensor, FT120, for near-range blind spots. With a 100° x 75° ultra-wide field of view (FOV) and no blind spot, FT120 detects the fine details of objects and gathers information about the environment in real-time. These features allow autonomous vehicles to precisely detect objects such as street signs, railings, small animals, traffic cones, and crosswalks.
The product supports a data rate of 192,000 points per second and an overall resolution of 160 (H) x 120 (V). Like RoboSense’s flash solid-state LiDAR, FT120 has no moving parts. This makes the product more reliable and efficient than traditional mechanical LiDAR sensors.
Close-up view of FT120 LiDAR solution. Image used courtesy of Hesai Technology
According to the company, Hesai will mass produce and deliver over one million of its units in 2023, with leading OEMs showing great interest in its products.
Merger Between Leading LiDAR Companies
Two leading companies in the LiDAR sensor industry, Ouster and Velodyne, have announced a proposed merger in an attempt to drive more innovation in the production of LiDAR sensor solutions.
Velodyne's Velarray M1600 solid-state LiDAR. Image used courtesy of Velodyne
The proposed merger will lead to a more robust product portfolio and streamline operational efficiency across different engineering and manufacturing teams. According to Velodyne, the merger provides a complementary customer base, partners, and distribution channels, as well as reduced production costs and an innovative roadmap to accelerate LiDAR adoption across fast-growing end markets. This merger yields a combined balance of about $355 million as of Sept. 2022. The companies will also realize an annualized cost savings of about $75 million as the merger transaction closes.
Velodyne CEO Dr. Ted Tewksbury remarked that the collaboration between Ouster and Velodyne is expected to unlock enormous synergies, creating a company with the scale and resources to deliver stronger solutions for customers while accelerating time to profitability and enhancing value for shareholders.