This week, Blackmore announced two new lidar products. This announcement expands Blackmore’s range of solutions built on the company’s frequency-modulation lidar systems. These sensors are unique primarily for their ability to offer both range and velocity measurements, which enables processing software to more accurately determine whether the object in your path is a moving car, a pile or dirt, or a pedestrian.
The Blackmore AFDL (autonomous fleet doppler lidar) is designed specifically for easy deployment of autonomous vehicle fleets. The Blackmore LDP (lidar development platform) is meant to enable developers of new autonomous applications like robots, trucks, or air taxis (!) to get the systems they need with a minimum of integration work.
AFDL – low power, multiple beams, faster decisions
First things first, the AFDL has a 120° horizontal field of view, a range of 450 meters, and scans at about 2.4 million points per second. It runs on less than 100 watts—about what you’d expect from a small laptop. The AFDL also offers motion resolution of 0.1 meters per second, and is sensitive to motion across a high dynamic range out to about 150 meters per second.
During a phone conversation in advance of the announcement, Blackmore explained to SPAR how they managed this upgrade over its previous products: the AFDL features multiple beams over the field of view, making it perhaps the first FM-based doppler lidar to do so.
Blackmore told us it developed the product to serve companies looking to roll out fleets of autonomous vehicles. A number of these companies contacted Blackmore wanting an FM-based lidar for their fleets, because its combination of data reduced what’s called the “time to perception,” or the amount of time any given sensor needs to collect enough data for the autonomous system to make good decisions about how to drive.
The sensor is available now for preorder below the US $20,000 price point, with units shipping to customers in Q2 of 2019.
LDR – Lidar development platform
This second product is designed to help develop new applications of autonomous navigation technology.
The company told me that the platform includes a standard box that handles optics and processing. It offers users the flexibility of interchangeable sensor heads, as well as software-defined operation for controlling field of view, range, point density, scan speed, and other parameters within each head’s operational envelope. With this solution, Blackmore intends to offer doppler-liar support for emerging applications as different as long-haul autonomous trucking (which requires narrow POVs at long range) and warehouse robotics (which require a broader POV at short ranges).
The idea is that users can change out sensor heads if it becomes necessary as their understanding of the application at hand. Blackmore says it expects that customers will start with a handful of units to get data as quickly as possible to determine the benefits of the lidar and get a sense for working with the software. As the customer’s need evolves, the platform can be configured to meet those needs.
Blackmore says that the LDP is available now, with additional sensor heads to be released over time.