When we talk about self-driving vehicles, Tesla is the first name that comes to mind. Although other automakers like Cadillac and Toyota have also unveiled self-driving models. Tesla as we know is an Electric Vehicle. Self-driving vehicles have not achieved the level of finesse and capabilities that are expected of them to go mainstream in every corner of the world. But, electric vehicles sure are catching on quickly. AEye’s LiDAR technology may soon be the gold standard for autonomous EV vehicles. But before making sense of this, automakers need to understand what LiDAR technology is and who are AEye?
Autonomous vehicles will soon become the new normal. Also known as self-driving cars, they do not require a driver or human input. On the other hand, they use sensors and computers that work together to see ahead to emulate a human driver on the road.
A technological combination of a ‘radar’ with a ‘sonar’ is commonly used in autonomous vehicles. This tech combination is mostly the basis of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in vehicles.
It warns the driver about looming threats on the road that the driver may not be aware of.
It stops the vehicle just in time when a collision is about to occur.
LiDAR is a next-gen system that’s an advanced replacement to the radar+sonar combination. It grants autonomous vehicles the ability to ‘see’ the roads and the surrounding just like a human would be able to. LiDAR, abbreviated into ‘light detection and ranging’ is a technology that makes use of ‘pulsed lasers’ to map a 3D model of the surrounding environment.
While the sonar technology uses sound waves and the radar technology uses microwaves, LiDAR uses light to quickly and accurately create a map of the surrounding environment where the autonomous vehicle will run. LiDAR technology can be thought of as the ‘eyes’ for an autonomous vehicle. It essentially creates a quick image of the area around the vehicle, encompassing the roads, street signs and signals, oncoming traffic, sudden obstacles along the path, pedestrians, and stray animals.
LiDAR tech sends out laser pulses from the vehicle which in turn reflect off of an object and send the signal back to the system. The LiDAR system gets to work, calculating the distance between the AV and the object. It makes the calculation by considering the time elapsed between pulse emitted and beam received by the system. Now imagine this activity occurring in quick succession, with millions of pulses emitted and beams received. We now get full-fledged ‘eyes’ to the vehicle, the images from which are processed by algorithms to identify and navigate through various objects that the vehicle will encounter.
· LiDAR can monitor blind spots to detect vehicles before and during a lane change.
· It is used in adaptive cruise control to maintain a consistent distance between vehicles behind and in front of your car.
· It works in automatic emergency braking systems to stop the vehicle before the collision.
· With accurate environment mapping and fast processing, LiDAR is a better option compared to radar/sonar systems.
· It has 360-degree capabilities which provide high-quality and more accurate safety alerts to the driver.
High performance LiDAR which are also long-range LiDAR systems obtain resolution at range required for Level 3 and higher, safe autonomous vehicles. Level 3 plus autonomy for vehicles is required for highway and urban use cases. By enabling faster, more accurate, reliable sensing, and path planning, high performance LiDAR can enable safety in autonomous vehicles.
AEye is a California-based automotive company known for their patented IDAR (Intelligent Detection and Ranging) platform and LiDAR technology. Although a small firm, they are working towards building hardware for driverless, autonomous, self-driven vehicles with the ability to perceive our world as close as possible to how a human driver would.
AEye’s LiDAR is speculated to be the new gold standard for autonomous EVs after an impressive demonstration recently at a test facility in Michigan. During the test, the level of sophistication of the system came to light. AEye’s LiDar system aced the test when obstacles and urban scenarios were simulated while entering a tunnel.
AEye’s LiDAR is different in the LiDAR world due to several reasons:
· Choice of laser: AEye uses a 1550-nm laser when compared to the 905 nm laser which is preferred in the LiDAR world owing to its cheaper cost.
· Eye safety: Lasers used by AEye’s LiDAR are safe for the eyes and do not cause retinal damage compared to the cheaper 905 mm lasers.
· Obstacle detection distance is not compromised: Since AEye’s lasers are safe, their power is not compromised due to regulations. As such, the pulses emitted by them can travel farther distances than the cheaper, short-wave alternatives to detect obstacles.
· Dual module system: Their LiDAR has separated the modules that send and receive the laser pulses. This improves the time taken to send and receive the pulses. The two-module system can send more pulses in a shorter time frame when compared to an integrated module.
· More data: AEys’s LiDAR generates more data when compared to LiDAR from other companies.
· In the case of AEye’s LiDAR, every returning laser pulse is followed by several repeat pulses sent to obtain a clear picture of an object in front of the vehicle.
· Mimics human visual cortex: AEys’s LiDAR mimics the human visual cortex by conceptually focusing on and evaluating the environment.
· It picks up everything: It doesn’t miss a thing including driving conditions, road hazards, and full field-of-view coverage.
· Gleaning important data: It collects and analyzes only the data that matters resulting in the development of intelligent information using minimal data.
AEye LiDAR will push existing technology for autonomous EVs well into the future within a shorter time frame. This is due to recent new developments and their latest successful tests which have pitted them in the same league against EV and self-drive giants like Tesla. Like its biggest competitors, AEye has passed high performance, aggressive tests for avoiding obstacles. Tremendous data has emerged from the test as well as from their earlier tests which produced similar results in the same conditions.
Automakers and companies are swiftly moving through real-world test drives and need to know the importance of technologies like LiDAR for autonomous vehicles. LiDAR forms the league of next-gen sensors and technology that are awaiting adoption by automakers.