Autonomous Vehicles: LiDAR is Key to Autonomous Vehicles

A 154Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

We are in the midst of one of the most exciting periods of technology advances in a generation–the emergence of vehicles that are aware of the driving environment, react and control themselves and, ultimately, operate autonomously. Recent developments in the LiDAR space, such as TriLumina’s powerful and flexible LiDAR laser emitters, are accelerating the path to mass adoption and deployment in consumer vehicles.

ADAS Today, Semi-Autonomous & Autonomous Operation by 2020
The first wave of advanced safety sensors are becoming the automaker’s most important selling feature. Rapid growth and adoption of advance driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as assisted cruise control, emergency braking, parking assist and blind spot detection result from advanced sensors and electronics that can sense, recognize, decide and act upon changes in the driving environment. Current ADAS sensors rely on visual systems, radar and ultrasound.

Today’s family of sensors is reaching its capability limit. Next generation systems require more capable systems to meet higher performance and reliability demands. Automakers and Tier 1 suppliers are challenged to balance performance, cost, size, power requirements and reliability in their development of ADAS and autonomous systems. LiDAR offers increased range and higher resolution for safer, more robust, higher intelligence systems to fill the performance gap. TriLumina’s new laser sources, together with advances in electronic and processing solutions are helping address these factors.

With over 700,000 autonomous miles logged, Google proves the robustness and capability of LiDAR technology. Advances in sensor fusion and processing from multiple sources, such as video, permit the enhancement of LiDAR data. Velodyne’s "Calibrated Reflectivity" is just one example of advanced processing.

The ADAS market is expected to represent a $250 billion market in 2020. LiDAR sits at the epicenter of this enormous market. The question is no longer "if" fully autonomous vehicles will be operating alongside human controlled cars–it’s "when". The auto industry estimates it will be less than a decade. Government regulators and insurance providers are pushing and consumers are pulling. While photonics pioneers like TriLumina are working overtime to accelerate the schedule.

LiDAR is the Future
Those of us fortunate enough to be part of the ADAS and autonomous driving markets understand the critical role that LiDAR will play in vehicles of the future. Fused with video and radar data, LiDAR will ultimately form the foundation of vehicular sensing functionality. Limited by large form factors, mechanical limitations and high cost, LiDAR solutions have always appeared to be several design cycles further out on the horizon.

The importance of LiDAR is undisputed, but adoption is stalled due to cost and size. Today’s systems remain orders of magnitude too expensive for consumer adoption. Much of the cost and form factor problems are due to the laser component.

TriLumina Enables Multiple LiDAR Solutions
TriLumina has developed a bright, highpower, low profile LiDAR laser solution at a price point that will drive the mass adoption of LiDAR solutions. TriLumina provides tight, powerful and bright beams to illuminate emerging LiDAR systems. TriLumina offers solid state scanning capabilities to miniaturize and enhance mechanical systems. TriLumina’s powerful arrays will fill a wide field of view in flash LiDAR systems.

We expect that multiple LiDAR systems will be fused to create a complete vehicle sensor envelope. Flash, mechanical and MEMs systems will be integrated into body moldings and headlight clusters. Powerful forward-looking LiDAR, located in the grill or roof will be able to view activity and hazards ahead. TriLumina-powered interior time of flight sensors will monitor driver alertness and trigger the systems awareness state. Driving will become safer, more efficient, and enable the driver to multi-task safely. Lives will be saved, people will be more relaxed, and our lives enriched.

David is Chief Strategy Officer and a co-founder of TriLumina Corp.

A 154Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE