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LIDAR Systems are Improving

There are some exciting new products being developed on the LIDAR front. LIDAR, which stands for “Light Detection and Ranging” is a method in which lasers are shined upon a physical object, and the light that is bounced back to the source of the laser is measured in order to determine the distance from the laser. This is done over and over, many different times and at different angles. The result is a visual map that provides a three dimensional contour of the physical object. What this means in layman’s terms is that LIDAR can be used as a sort of “machine” vision, or vision that can be used by machines to determine their surroundings. Auto manufacturers use LIDAR in vehicles that are currently produced in order to provide the vehicle with a view of its surroundings. The quality and cost of LIDAR systems that are used in automobiles is improving, allowing auto makers to enhance the machine vision of the vehicles in which these LIDAR systems are used. The product development companies Aptiv, Innoviz, LeddarTech, Continental, Valeo and ZF are all working on improving their LIDAR systems for the automotive market. Improvements that are being developed by these companies include better resolution, faster visual tracking, and better accuracy in the images that are created by LIDAR. Apple is also developing LIDAR systems, however for their IPhone. Apple started developing a simple LIDAR system for use in IPhone with the release of the IPhone 12 and IPad Pro tablet. Currently, the LIDAR system in these devices is rather primitive, and can only be used for improving the quality of photos, however there are plans to add other functionalities and some point. The main challenge with achieving widespread adoption of these new LIDAR devices comes down to their cost. Currently automakers are shooting for a goal of $100 per sensor, however current costs for high-quality systems is about ten times as high. Hopefully new developments and scaling of production will help bring the costs down in the future.

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