At some point in the near future--how near depends on who you ask--autonomous vehicles (AVs) will become a common sight on the roads. Without the need for a driver or human input, AVs, which are also known as self-driving cars, will require sensors and computers working together to read the road and surrounding environment. Most of the advanced driver aids in the wild today use a combination of radar and sonar to deliver warnings on unseen threats and to help stop a vehicle before a collision occurs. Lidar is a technology that can perform similar functions to radar and sonar, but it's a next-generation system that may represent the best option for AVs' ability to "see." As automakers and other companies move through testing and real-world drives, it has become clear that next-generation sensors and tech offer intriguing functionality but are not the silver bullet that many thought they'd be at first.
Autonomous vehicles rely on several advanced technologies to self-navigate. We unbundle the AV to see how these technologies work together and which companies are driving them forward. Autonomous vehicles rely on a set of complementary technologies to understand and respond to their surroundings. Some AV companies are focusing on these specific components and partnering with automakers and Tier-1 suppliers to help bring their products to scale while others, such as Zoox and Nuro, are designing their vehicles from the ground up. Technology is disrupting the auto industry from all sides. Get the free report PDF to learn more.
Yandex, the Russia-based company specializing in internet-related products and transportation services, is getting into the lidar sensor business. In a Medium post in which the company revealed that its autonomous cars have driven over 1.5 million miles combined, up from 1 million in October, Yandex detailed two custom software-defined lidar sensors it says it has been testing on vehicles in Moscow. Yandex expects that it will also eventually use them on its recently revealed delivery robot, Yandex.Rover. Lidar sensors measure the distance to target objects by illuminating them with laser light and measuring the reflected pulses. They're a core part of a number of driverless vehicle systems, including those developed by Alphabet's Waymo, Uber, and GM's Cruise, and their applications extend to verticals like robotics, industry, security, and agricultural sectors.
Cameras help autonomous vehicles read street signs and the color of traffic lights. But LiDARs, aka light detection and ranging systems, do the important work of sensing and helping cars avoid obstacles, whether that's a fallen tree, drunk driver, or a child running out into the road. Now, a startup called Luminar Technologies Inc., is unveiling a high-resolution LiDAR sensor that was five years in the making. The startup, which has raised $36 million in seed-stage funding so far, built its LiDAR systems from scratch. That means the company engineered its own: lasers, receivers, chips, packaging and more, rather than incorporating off-the-shelf components.
Starting as a small local enterprise in 1927, Volvo has grown into a major player in the commercial transport and infrastructure solutions market. In May last year, Volvo announced choosing Luminar to supply lidar sensors for its next-generation XC90. The SUV will come with state-of-the-art sensors, including LiDAR technology and an autonomous driving computer powered by the NVIDIA DRIVE Orin system-on-a-chip. The suite of advanced safety features will be a standard on the successor to Volvo Cars' XC90, unveiling in 2022. The next generation of pure electric Volvo Cars will have industry leading safety technology including LiDAR and an AI-driven super computers as standard to help save lives.