What is LiDAR?

LiDAR sensors allow for detailed and reliable detection and mapping of the environment with the help of geometric information.

The potential of LiDAR

LiDAR is considered a key technology for autonomous driving as the sensors provide highly detailed and robust information about distances, speeds, size dimensions and the shape of objects in the environment of the vehicle. Based on this 3D environment information, autonomous cars can make driving decisions that allow safe, autonomous navigation even in unknown environments.

 

How do LiDAR sensors work?

LiDAR is a technology related to radar. Instead of radio waves a 3D scanner emits laser pulses that – invisible to the human eye – hit objects and are reflected. The sensor measures the time of flight between emission and return of the laser pulse and calculates the distance between sensor and object. A LiDAR repeats this procedure up to a million times per second and summarizes the results in a 3D map of the environment which is generated in real time. These so-called point clouds are so detailed that they can not only be used to detect objects, but also to identify them. Based on this information, vehicles can make safe autonomous driving decisions.

 

Limitations of conventional LiDAR sensors

LiDARs consist of three main components: A laser, a detector and a beam deflection unit. The conventional LiDAR generation uses gears and bearings to mechanically steer the laser pulses across the environment. These mechanics are sensitive and therefore not ideal for impacts such as those occurring when driving a car. In addition, such mechanical LiDARs are extremely expensive due to the cost-intensive components, their complex design and manual construction. The cheapest LiDAR models cost thousands of dollars.

 

Mass market LiDAR technology

The solution for this problem are so-called solid-state LiDAR sensors, which do not require mechanically moving components. Such as those LiDARs based on MEMS technology. Similar to computer chips, they can be standardized and manufactured in large quantities, are much less complex in design, more robust, smaller and more cost-effective than their predecessors. The LiDAR-startup Blickfeld takes up on this and offers a significant cost reduction together with a scalable production process which enables series production. Thus, the mass market for LiDAR sensors can be opened up.

The Cube is Blickfeld’s first 3D sensor that will go into series production. Besides the automotive sector, numerous other fields of application can benefit from a broad deployment of low-cost and mass-produced LiDAR technology: Internet of Things, Smart City, logistics, industry and agriculture as well as security solutions offer ideal starting points for high-precision environment detection and autonomous navigation.