In a few years, the number of autonomous vehicles on the road is going to be huge, and most of them are going to need LiDAR sensors. Any sensor manufacturer that inks a deal with a major car maker can expect to profit. The problem is that the winning LiDAR sensor needs to be inexpensive and easy to manufacture at scale.
Dutch company Innoluce has a novel solution that it expects to cost no more than $100 at scale.
It’s based on solid-state LiDAR technology, which integrates the mechanical moving parts of a traditional LiDAR sensor into a single silicon microchip. The innovation is similar to the one that reduced a computer processor from a room of transistors, resistors, and capacitors to a small chip that can fit in your cell phone.
Where Innoluce’s solution differs from other companies solid-state sensors is how it sends out the laser. Instead of using an optical phased array, which directs the laser with no moving parts, they have developed a MEMS-based system that uses moving microscopic mirrors to do the same job. (For the record, MEMS is an acronym for “Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems.)
The company says its sensors outperform other kinds of solid-state LiDAR sensors on range and resolution. They have realized single-shot detection at a range of 250 meters and an angular resolution of 0.1° in daylight conditions. Innoluce also claims that the sensor operates at 95% efficiency.
As a result of these specs, Innoluce says that its sensor doesn’t require signal processing and averaging technologies to achieve long-range, high-resolution tracking at a high frame rate.
But is the technology scalable? Marijn van Os, CEO and founder of Innoluce definitely thinks so. “I am confident that we are able to realize these sensors in high volume as of 2018, as currently available lasers and detectors can be applied to complete this LiDAR concept.”
Will 2018 be early enough to take advantage of the market? That remains to be seen.