LiDAR – the technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light – was until recently very costly.
Systems used in mapping vans and self-driving vehicles – such as these of Google – were costing from $5,000 to $50,000, therefore limiting the penetration of this technology in common cars and making automated driving very pricy.
LiDAR are indeed a key component of the situational awareness of future driverless cars, creating a live 3D view around a vehicle – up to 150 m distance – detecting, classifying, and tracking objects in the scene.
Now a company is set to transform the LiDAR market in offering a system that costs around $250 in volume sales (100,000 pieces).
Based in Sunnyvale, California, Quanergy was founded in 2012 and is bringing to the market a new technology called solid-state LiDAR. Instead of relying on a spinning, mechanical system, Quanergy uses an integrated circuit capable of gathering a point cloud of one million pixel per second with an accuracy of 5 cm at 100 meters.
Louay Eldada, the CEO of the company spoke yesterday at a press conference in Las Vegas where the company publicly launched S3, their first solid state LiDAR.
He explained there are many advantages to solid state LiDAR, in addition to its much lower cost. One is robustness because with no spinning part inside there is no risk of mechanical failure. Lower power consumption is also an advantage.
The technology is also able to scan a particular area on demand on a micro second request. Louay Eldada pointed out that it offers for example the ability to concentrate the vision on the left and right sides when the car is stopping at an intersection, then switching back the beam to 150 meters in front when the car is driving at full speed on an highway.