|Velodyne Pads Lead in Lidar Derby|
11/29/2017 09:00 AM EST
PARIS — Velodyne LiDAR is still lapping the field in an embryonic but increasingly competitive and complex lidar market, an advantage that grew this week when it unveiled a new 128-channel lidar sensor. The VLS-128 lidar unit boasts range (distance) and resolution that other lidars currently on sale have not been able to offer.
Velodyne’s VLS-128 is ideal for “high-speed highway driving, as it senses objects in farther distance,” said Anand Gopalan, CTO of Velodyne LiDAR. Moreover, it can capture “a rich set of data, high-resolution enough for object classifications without using a camera,” he added.
To pass as an effective sensor technology for highly automated vehicles traveling at 70 miles per hour on a highway, a lidar needs to be able to see at least 200 to 250 meters ahead, recognize that there’s an object out there, and determine what it is.
Compared to its own previous model (HDL-64), Gopalan said Velodyne’s VLS-128 can see objects three times farther (300 meters) and in three times resolution (0.1 degree).
Armed with these impressive specs, Velodyne hopes to set itself apart from traditional lidar sensors that are too low-quality or used primarily on a development platform. However, Velodyne’s own lidars, thus far, have been primarily used to create highly accurate 3D maps of their surroundings by bouncing laser beams off of nearby objects.
Velodyne’s VLS-128 is coming to the market as the competition for lidar is heating up, with the development community still wrestling with a host of newly emerging technologies.
Big car OEMs are snatching up lidar technology companies. For example, Ford bought Princeton Lightwave just last month, General Motors acquired lidar company Strobe Inc. also last month, and Continental got the lidar business from Advanced Scientific Concepts (ASC) last year, explained Akhilesh Kona, senior analyst, Automotive Electronics & Semiconductors at IHS Markit.
On one hand, the industry sees on the horizon a new laser emitter technology — above 1,400-nm wavelength. The laser in the new wavelength promises to bring to lidars higher resolution and longer range, said Kona. Princeton Lightwave, Continental (through its acquisition of ASC), and Luminar Technologies are all working on new laser emitter technology, he added.
On the other hand, technology suppliers continue to improve the durability, size, and cost of their lidars by developing a variety of beam-steering technologies, said Kona. They range from mechanical to MEMS and solid-state.
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