Lidar Technology for self driving cars
Early 2020 could likely spell trouble for the self-driving car industry, as Tesla came under scrutiny for three year-end deadly automobile accidents. Tesla was on the verge of releasing its self-driving cars for public use until these accidents happened.
Tesla’s self-driving cars use an Autopilot system that leverages cameras and radar for their “sight.” It is not clear if the Autopilot systems were being used in the three recent fatal crashes.
Even in January of 2019 at the industry’s tech show in Las Vegas called CES, the hype of fully autonomous cars was quieted greatly in favor of technology geared towards safety and the use of ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems). The latest potential of danger that has presented itself in these yet to be investigated Tesla accidents risks a greater caution toward the completely autonomous technology of driver-less cars.
In the face of this, however, two companies in particular are charging forward with the technology that they both contend will surely succeed, as they are so farther advanced than the camera and radar systems of Tesla. These companies are the German parts manufacturer Bosch, and the Japanese tech giant Sony.
Both companies have made press release in the past several days about the promise of their respective development of LIDAR technology. LIDAR technology is the mechanism that they posit will allow autonomous cars the ability to “see.” The tech works by emitting laser beams that reflect back to the sensors on the car to establish 3D maps of the world around it. These maps are created by the tech translating the returning beams on the basis of how long it takes for the laser to travel back to the sensors.
Bosch revealed on Thursday its LIDAR system, which it touts as robust enough to tackle autonomous driving on highways as well as in cities. Bosch’s focus, it says, is on safety. As such, the company has full confidence of its system, which can work in symbiosis with cameras and radar to introduce safety to the discussion of self-driving cars.
Another formidable player in the LIDAR technology that promises safety and autonomy in future automobiles is Sony. Sony has long been a leader in camera sensors for cars, but the company is now looking to compete in the self-driving car market by rivaling other companies that are developing LIDAR technology. Their silicon-based vision sensor promises to not only perform but to have high precision over longer distances. Not only that, Sony asserts that their “solid state’ LIDAR tech will me less monstrous than existing systems and therefore more affordable.
Some small startup companies have been trying to capitalize on the LIDAR technology for self-driving cars, but companies like Bosch and Sony have the manufacturing capacity to meet the need at a lower cost. It will be interesting to see how these factors and the tech itself will stand up at the 2020 CES against the scrutiny of Tesla and the 2019 concerns about safety.