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Lidar Pioneer Velodyne Unveils its Next-Generation Velabit Sensor

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【Summary】Velodyne Lidar Inc. unveiled its next-generation Velabit lidar sensor on Monday. The improved sensor addresses the cost, safety, and design challenges of autonomous vehicles while delivering state-of-the-art performance in a compact form factor.

Eric Walz    Jun 14, 2021 11:15 AM PT
Lidar Pioneer Velodyne Unveils its Next-Generation Velabit Sensor
The new Velabit lidar sensor delivers state-of-the-art performance in a compact form factor.

Velodyne Lidar Inc. unveiled its next-generation Velabit lidar sensor on Monday. The improved sensor addresses the cost, safety, and design challenges of autonomous vehicles while delivering state-of-the-art performance in a compact form factor.

The newest velabit lidar sensor is an automotive-grade lidar solution to support both advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) or autonomous vehicles. The updated velabit sensor is equipped with Velodyne's proprietary micro-lidar array architecture (MLA) and offers an ultra-wide field of view (FoV) and higher resolution.

According to Velodyne, the next-gen solid-state Velabit sensor now has a maximum horizontal FoV of 90 degrees and maximum vertical FOV of 70 degrees, approximately three times more points per second than the previous model. The FOV is configurable with software and delivers high-resolution zoom capability.

The sensor can also be combined with other Velodyne lidar sensors, such as the Velarray H800, for automated highway driving applications or as a standalone lidar solution for low-speed applications.  

This lightweight Velabit sensor features a small form factor and low power consumption and can be used across multiple industries, such as self-driving cars, compact delivery vehicles, robots, or aerial mapping applications.

"With our next-generation Velabit, Velodyne continues to innovate with a sensor that has small size for sleek, stylish integration while delivering high-quality performance," said Anand Gopalan, CEO, Velodyne Lidar. "Our dedicated engineering team worked to bring our customers' needs to life in under a year, highlighting our commitment to meeting market demands."

Velodyne, which is based in San Jose, CA, is a pioneer in the development of lidar, which is an acronym for "light detection and ranging." The company's founder David Hall invented 360-degree lidar in 2005. Velodyne says its the highest volume supplier of lidar sensors to the automotive industry, with more than 300 customers globally.

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By emitting pulses of laser light, lidar sensors can generate 3D images of a vehicle's surroundings for safer navigation.

Velodyne was one of the first companies to supply lidar to developers of autonomous vehicles over a decade ago, including for Google's self-driving car project in 2009. Back then, the lidar sensors were much larger, resembling a spinning bucket on the roof of a self-driving vehicle.

Now more compact and reliable solid-state lidar sensors are being developed by Velodyne and many other lidar companies, including Volvo-backed Luminar. 

Lidar sensors act as the eyes of an autonomous vehicle. They work by sending out pulses of laser light off objects and measuring the time its takes for the light to reflect back. The reflected laser light that bounces off solid objects is used to generate a precise, three-dimensional view of an autonomous vehicle's surroundings known as a lidar "point cloud."

When combined with cameras and radars as part of a self-driving vehicle's perception sensor suite, the velabit lidar sensor can help automakers achieve full 360-degree coverage around a vehicle. Its wide vertical field of view also makes it an ideal sensor for near-field sensing and robotics applications.

There is growing demand from the auto industry for high performing low cost lidar sensors to support advanced safety features, such as pedestrian detection systems that are becoming standard on many new vehicles. The Velabit helps to address the demand for lower cost lidar sensors, while also helping to accelerate the development of autonomous technologies.

In Oct 2020, Velodyne announced a three-year sales agreement with China's Baidu to provide lidar sensors for autonomous driving applications. Baidu is launching a fully-autonomous taxi service in China called "Apollo Go" as part of its Apollo open-source autonomous driving platform. The fleet of self-driving vehicles will use Velodyne lidar sensors.

Velabit will be combined with Velodyne's lidar-based perception software called "Vella." The software translates Velabit's point cloud data into valuable perception outputs, including object classification and tracking, obstacle detection, scene segmentation, and object velocity, that can be utilized by a vehicle's autonomous driving system. 

When combined with vehicle odometry data, the Vella software provides time and distance to collision measurements, enabling safer vehicle response, according to Velodyne. 

The Velabit is designed for mass production. Velodyne's fully automated manufacturing process and global manufacturing partnerships enable high-quality mass production starting as early as Q4 2022, the company said.

Since its launch, the Velabit lidar sensor was named a winner in the 2020 Best of What's New awards by Popular Science. The sensor also was named the winner of the 2020 Innovation Award by Silicon Valley Robotics.

Last year Velodyne became a public company in a reverse merger agreement with Graf Industrial Corp. (GRAF), a special special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). As part of the agreement, GRAF was renamed "Velodyne Lidar, Inc." and is listed on the Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol "VLDR." 

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