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Velodyne announces a solid state LiDAR sensor for self-driving cars

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【Summary】California based Velodyne LiDAR Inc., a leading manufacturer of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors used on self-driving vehicles, has just announced a new solid state LiDAR sensor. Velodyne calls its new design the “Velarray”.

Original Eric Walz    Apr 20, 2017 1:49 PM PT
Velodyne announces a solid state LiDAR sensor for self-driving cars

By Eric Walz

Morgan Hill, California based Velodyne LiDAR Inc., a leading manufacturer of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors used on self-driving vehicles, has just announced a new solid state LiDAR sensor. Velodyne calls its new design the "Velarray". Solid state refers to systems based entirely on the semiconductor, meaning the new Velarray has no moving parts, and it is smaller, less expensive, and more reliable than its predecessors. With its new technology, Velodyne can help make autonomous vehicles more affordable.

LiDAR evolution

Early LiDAR systems were bulky and expensive. Velodyne first supplied Google with its LiDAR systems in 2009, where they were used in Google's early self-driving vehicles. These early LiDAR sensors were easily recognizable as a large, bulky, cylindrical lidar sensor mounted high on the roof of Google's early, self-driving test vehicles. Velodyne has also supplied LiDAR sensors to Ford and Volvo.

Although these early systems were very sophisticated, they were not solid state. Velodyne's first LiDAR sensors resembled a large spinning bucket when mounted to the roof of a test vehicle, which made these early self-driving cars stand out on public roads. Respectively, these early LiDAR sensors were an important part of the development and testing self-driving car technology. However, the large, spinning sensor design was impractical for the future, scalable commercialization of autonomous vehicles.

Solid state LiDAR sensors are much smaller

According to Velodyne, the new Velarray LiDAR sensor uses Velodyne's proprietary ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) to achieve superior performance metrics in a small package size of 125mm x 50mm x 55mm (4.9 x 1.7 x 2.1 inches) that can be embedded into the front, sides, and corners of vehicles.

"The Velarray enables not only fully autonomous vehicles, but also ADAS (advanced driver assist) systems such as adaptive cruise control, while at the same time providing a miniature form factor and mass production target prices," said Mike Jellen, President & Chief Commercial Officer, Velodyne LiDAR. "It offers a unique value proposition empowering a vehicle system that improves the safe driving experience, alongside an upgraded path to full autonomy."

Velodyne_Velarray_.jpg

Velodyne's New Velarray LiDAR Sensor

Velarray specifications

The Velarray  provides up to a 120-degree horizontal and 35-degree vertical field-of-view, with a 200-meter (656 ft) range even for low-reflectivity (dark) objects. The 35-degree vertical field of view allows the sensor to "see" up and down steep hills.

According to Velodyne, the Velarray will ensure safe operation in Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles, as well as advanced driver assist system (ADAS) enabled cars. Level 4 vehicles are designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip, autonomously. Level 5 is an autonomous performance equal to that of a human driver.

Lower priced LiDAR

Velodyne expects a target price in the hundreds of dollars for the Velarray when produced in mass volumes. This is significantly lower than Velodyne's original LiDAR sensors, which reported cost $80,000 each, and were custom made for Google. One of the early drawbacks hindering the mass production and rollout of autonomous technology has been the expensive manufacturing costs of the necessary LiDAR technology.

Demonstration of the new technology

Velodyne has announced a scheduled customer demonstration of its new technology for the summer of 2017, with engineering sample units available of the Velarray by the end of 2017 ahead of production in 2018. Velodyne states the new Velarray sensors will be produced in scale at the company's new Silicon Valley "mega factory" in San Jose, California.

Velodyne also has competition in the solid state LiDAR market. Another Silicon Valley based start-up Quanergy, is currently working on a solid state LiDAR sensor that fits inside of a vehicle's headlight.







resource from: businesswire.com

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