by Vanessa Bates Ramirez: Self-driving cars have advanced a lot in recent years—going from test track prototypes to fixtures on the roads of select cities…

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And while they still require human supervision on public roads, it’s predicted that in the not-so-distant future driverless cars will not only take over the road, they’ll do a much better job than we’ve been doing. No more drunk driving, texting while driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or other human errors will mean dramatically fewer accidents and fatalities.

All this is possible thanks in part to lidars, the sensors driverless cars use to “see” the road and guide themselves. To date, however, lidars are not only expensive, they’re really big. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Google’s self-driving cars, the lidar is that sizable spinning thing on top of the roof.

As self-driving cars approach commercial viability, smaller, cheaper sensors would be better. Luckily, sensors have been getting more miniature and affordable for decades, and lidars are no exception.

California startup Quanergy is making a lidar they say will cut the size of a typical lidar in half, and dramatically reduce the cost at the same time.

But first, what exactly are lidars, and how do they work?

Lidars use lasers to sense a car’s surroundings. They’re similar to radars, but rather than using radio waves, they use light in or near the visible spectrum to illuminate a target then analyze the reflection.

Though the technology’s been around for over 30 years, it’s only recently become usable in commercial applications thanks to advances in laser technology and computational speed. Lidar’s narrow laser beam can map objects in high resolution.

Current self-driving cars are topped with a clunky black dome slightly smaller than a basketball, or an awkwardly-mounted system of rotating, blinking parts. Existing lidars use spinning mirrors to direct the laser beams they bounce off the objects around them.

 

Self-driving cars have advanced a lot in recent years—going from test track prototypes to fixtures on the roads of select cities. And while they still require human supervision on public roads, it’s predicted that in the not-so-distant future driverless cars will not only take over the road, they’ll do a much better job than we’ve been doing. No more drunk driving, texting while driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or other human errors will mean dramatically fewer accidents and fatalities.

All this is possible thanks in part to lidars, the sensors driverless cars use to “see” the road and guide themselves. To date, however, lidars are not only expensive, they’re really big. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Google’s self-driving cars, the lidar is that sizable spinning thing on top of the roof.

As self-driving cars approach commercial viability, smaller, cheaper sensors would be better. Luckily, sensors have been getting more miniature and affordable for decades, and lidars are no exception.

California startup Quanergy is making a lidar they say will cut the size of a typical lidar in half, and dramatically reduce the cost at the same time.

But first, what exactly are lidars, and how do they work?

Lidars use lasers to sense a car’s surroundings. They’re similar to radars, but rather than using radio waves, they use light in or near the visible spectrum to illuminate a target then analyze the reflection.

Though the technology’s been around for over 30 years, it’s only recently become usable in commercial applications thanks to advances in laser technology and computational speed. Lidar’s narrow laser beam can map objects in high resolution.

Current self-driving cars are topped with a clunky black dome slightly smaller than a basketball, or an awkwardly-mounted system of rotating, blinking parts. Existing lidars use spinning mirrors to direct the laser beams they bounce off the objects around them.

Source: Singularity Hub