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Baraja Offers New Spectrum-scan LIDAR for Driverless Cars

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【Summary】Baraja’s LIDAR system leverages prism-like optics and a wavelength-tunable laser to produce clear images.

Michael Cheng    Jul 18, 2018 5:16 PM PT
Baraja Offers New Spectrum-scan LIDAR for Driverless Cars
author: Michael Cheng   

According to a report by IHS Markit, the LIDAR market is forecasted to reach $2.5 billion by 2026. In order for that to happen, the technology must be further developed to ease costs and improve efficiency.

Baraja, a startup that specializes in sensors for self-driving cars, wants to revolutionize various aspects of LIDAR devices using spectrum-scan technology. The new class of LIDAR systems is designed to adjust to a wide range of road conditions by modifying its scanning patterns during use.

Prism-like Optics

Baraja's LIDAR system leverages prism-like optics and a wavelength-tunable laser to produce clear images. Spectrum-scan technology enables the unit to emit light in different colors, allowing robust distance-related calculations. Data processing is facilitated by a separate component inside the vehicle, connected by a heavy-duty cable.

Accurate control of wavelength measurements of the light's profile being released from the LIDAR facilitates focus. In application, this would enable the sensor to ‘concentrate' on specific targets, instead of a typical broad scan of the environment. In the city, a broad view is required for safety, while on highways, reaction to obstructions (and other cars) can be honed by shifting the unit's focus directly on the road.

"We give the car's computer full control to change the (viewing) resolution on the fly to adapt to different road conditions," said Federico Collarte, CEO and Co-founder of the startup.

"We can change the focus of attention just as a human driver changes gaze — close up for city driving and farther away for highways."

Without moving parts (solid-state build), Baraja's LIDAR system is considered to be highly reliable with less points of failure, compared to traditional spinning LIDAR ‘buckets'. Automakers that adopt the startup's LIDAR solution can benefit from its sleek size and design. The units are capable of sensing targets up to 650 feet away.

Instead of stacking the components on top of each other, multiple sensors – around 4 units – are installed around the body of the vehicle for a complete scan of the environment. When mounted on cars, the units look like low-profile security cameras.

Exiting Stealth Mode

Before the announcement of its latest breakthrough, Baraja was operating in stealth mode for more than two years. Funded by Sequoia China and Blackbird, the startup is based in San Francisco, China and Australia. Plans to expand operations in Asia and Europe are currently ongoing.

According to San Francisco Chronicle, a handful of automakers are working with the company on closed-door projects. At the moment, there are 60 developers employed by the business, which is expected to reach 100 by the end of the year.

A LIDAR system that can be mass produced in a timely manner is the main goal of Baraja. The startup aims to achieve this by utilizing common, off-the-shelf parts (laser arrays are one of the most expensive components in a driverless vehicle). Such practices promote a cost-effective supply chain and ensures compatibility with automotive parts frequently used by manufacturers.

"Our experience in the optical telecommunications field, in particular the knowledge gained from years of product development for high-reliability use-cases, inspired us to solve some of the biggest problems facing the current state of LiDAR," explained Collarte.

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