3D LiDAR Delivers Automotive Solutions

By William Wong, Technical Editor

One of the hot technologies at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is 3D LiDAR, which will be critical to the success of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.

Automotive technology continues to be a hot topic at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 3D LiDAR is prominent, as it is a key sensor component for advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) and self-driving cars.

Two things are driving improvements in 3D LiDAR. The first is improved emitters, since LiDAR provides its own light source. One of the companies delivering arrays is Trilumina. Its 940 nm vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) illumination module (Fig. 1) is the basis for a number of 3D LiDAR systems.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Trilumina’s 940 nm vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) illumination module is the basis for a number of 3D LiDAR systems.

Trilumina’s VCSEL array uses microlenses to produces a combined, low-divergence output beam that has little or no speckle noise (Fig. 2). The array has a far-field divergence angle of less that 15 deg. The approach does so without costly external optics. The VCSEL array is compact and multiple dies can be connected together to form larger arrays. The compact size is partly due to the use of flip-chip, back-emitting VCSELs.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Trilumina’s vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) array uses microlenses to produces a combined, low-divergence output beam that has little or no speckle noise.

One place Trilumina’s array is found is in LeddarTech’s 3D LiDAR solution (Fig. 3). The illuminator is combined with LeddarTech’s LCA2 3D Flash LiDAR modules. The LCA2 chip generates 245,000 waveforms/s and processes nearly 1.3 billion samples/s to generate the range data needed for ADAS applications. LeddarTech is also showing its LCA3 prototype at CES. The company is targeting a device with a 350-meter range and a resolution as low as 0.01 deg. with its LCA3 technology.

Figure 3

Figure 3: LeddarTech’s 3D LiDAR combines its LCA2 LiDAR sensor with Trilumina’s VCSEL illuminator.

Velodyne’s Velarray (Fig. 4) uses Velodyne’s proprietary ASICs to deliver a compact, 3D LiDAR system that is 125 mm by 50 mm by 55 mm. It can be embedded into the front, sides, and corners of vehicles to generate a 360-deg. view. Each unit provides up to a 120­deg. horizontal and 35­deg. vertical field­of­view. It has a 200­meter range and can even detect low­reflectivity objects. It is designed to meet an automotive integrity safety level rating of ASIL-B.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Velodyne’s Velarray is a small-form-factor, 3D LiDAR system.

Innoviz’s InnovizPro 3D LiDAR (Fig. 5) is designed to deliver information at 20 frames/s with angular resolution of 0.15 by 0.3 deg. and a field of view of 73 by 20 deg. It has a range up to 150 meters. The compact 83 mm by 90 mm by 175 mm unit is IP67-rated. The system operates in a multi-frame mode that allows a high frame rate to detect near objects at a high resolution and a lower frame rate to provide extra-long-range detections. It can focus on an area of interest while capturing the entire field of view at the full frame rate.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Innoviz’s InnovizPro 3D LiDAR is designed to deliver information at 20 frames/s with angular resolution of 0.15 by 0.3 deg. and a field of view of 73 by 20 deg. It has a 150-meter range.

Tetravue will be debuting its LiDAR technology at this year’s CES. Its MegaPixel arrays are designed to deliver higher resolutions than competing LiDAR platforms.

Quanergy’s tiny S3-Qi 3D LiDAR (Fig. 6) has a range in excess of 100 meters. It weighs only 100 g and has a small 1-in. by 1.5-in. footprint. The larger S3 model has a maximum range of 150 meters with 120-deg. field of view. It can resolve objects down to 9 cm at 100 m. It has a target price of $250.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Quanergy’s tiny S3-Qi 3D LiDAR has a range in excess of 100 m.

Most vendors are delivering product in 2018 with volume production targeting 2019. Expect these devices to be in the 2020 car lineup.

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