By Christoph Hammerschmidt, Contributing Editor
Robotic perception startup AEye (Pleasanton, CA) has demonstrated what it calls a new form of intelligent data collection through optical sensors: iDAR. The acronym is not a typo but stands for “Intelligent Detection and Ranging” and is designed to enable rapid dynamic perception and path planning for autonomous vehicles and robots.
The technology combines an “agile” Micro-optical Mechanical (MOEMS) LiDAR, pre-fused with a low-light camera and embedded artificial intelligence and thus is creating software-definable and extensible hardware that can dynamically adapt to real-time demands. iDAR promises to deliver higher accuracy and longer range than existing lidar designs, enabling improved autonomous vehicle safety and performance at a reduced cost.
According to AEye, a shortcoming of traditional LiDAR is that most systems oversample less important information like the sky, road and trees, or undersample critical information such as a fast-approaching vehicle. They then have to spend significant processing power and time extracting critical objects like pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and animals. AEye’s iDAR technology mimics how a human’s visual cortex focuses on and evaluates potential driving hazards: it uses a distributed architecture and at-the-edge processing to dynamically track targets and objects of interest, while always critically assessing general surroundings.
AEye’s iDAR is designed to intelligently prioritize and interrogate co-located pixels (2D) and voxels (3D) within a frame, enabling the system to target and identify objects within a scene 10-20x more effectively than LiDAR-only products. Additionally, iDAR is capable of overlaying 2D images on 3D point clouds for the creation of True Color LiDAR. Its embedded AI capabilities enable iDAR to utilize multiple – the company is actually promising “thousands” – of existing and custom computer vision algorithms, which add intelligence that can be leveraged by path planning software. The introduction of iDAR follows AEye’s September demonstration of the first 360 degree, vehicle-mounted, solid-state LiDAR system with ranges up to 300 meters at high resolution.
AEye is also announcing the iDAR Development Partner Program for OEM customers, Tier 1 partners, and universities interested in integrating iDAR into their vehicles. The company will demo iDAR and announce its automotive product suite at CES 2018 in Las Vegas from January 9-12.
Investors in AEye include industry heavyweights like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Airbus Ventures and Intel.