Extract from ElectroOptics, July 2020
In the last couple of months, a number of announcements have further demonstrated that lidar has made significant progress in being compact enough and produced economically enough to make it a viable option to compete with cheaper alternative technologies.
A team of researchers at Stanford University has been striving towards making lidar smaller and more cost effective. The team, led by electrical engineer Jelena Vuckovic, are working on shrinking the mechanical and electronic components in a rooftop lidar down to a single silicon chip that could potentially be produced at volume for just a few hundred dollars. The study, published in Nature Photonics, saw researchers structure the silicon in a way that used its infrared transparency to control, focus, and harness the power of the photon. The process used was called “inverse design”; Vuckovic’s lab has pioneered it over the past decade.
There are also significant moves forward in business case scenarios, as evidenced by autonomous vehicle sensor and software firm Luminar, whose lidar technology was selected to be included in Volvo’s next generation of cars. Those cars will be manufactured in hardware-readiness for autonomous driving as soon as 2022.
From a manufacturing standpoint, lidar experts LeddarTech recently announced they will begin volume production of their Pixel Cocoon lidar module in a manufacturing partnership with Clarion. The module is a 3D solid-state flash lidar with a 180-degree field of view. It is designed and tested for off-road, shuttles, robotaxis, delivery, commercial and heavy industry vehicles in addition to other robotic and automated applications. It can reliably detect pedestrians, cyclists and other obstacles in the vehicle’s vicinity, and has already been adopted by a number of autonomous vehicle providers in North America, Asia, and Europe.