From the early days of autonomous vehicle technology development, industry leaders knew that LiDAR platforms would be an essential sensor and that those sensors needed to be robust, reliable, compact, affordable and durable to serve the mobility industry as a whole. For these key factors to be reached, the LiDAR design has to be free of any mechanical moving parts in the fast axis.
In response, most long-range LiDAR sensors have since moved away from the bulky spinning laser models and now rely on one or very few lasers shooting in sequence and a mechanism to steer points horizontally and vertically across the field-of-view (FoV), with the MEMS and polygon scanners being the most popular choice for the fast axis scanning (FAS).
Ironically, because these mechanical parts were enclosed inside the LiDAR and not spinning around, many people began to refer to them incorrectly as solid-state, when in truth, MEMS and polygon scanners still rely on rapidly moving, mechanically operated internal mirrors to distribute points along its fast axis. And if any components inside of the LiDAR are oscillating, vibrating, or spinning at a very high frequency, it will ultimately lead to frequent failures and diminish the quality and reliability of your data.
These FAS designs struggle standing up to harsh temperatures and shock conditions mandated for automotive qualification, whereas true solid-state LiDARS can stand up to freezing and boiling hot climates and will never be impacted by hitting a pothole or driving along a bumpy road.
Eliminating those internal moving parts and going to a solid-state design also opens the possibilities for miniaturisation, which enables car makers to seamlessly integrate LiDAR sensors into the vehicle design — behind the windshield, within headlights, etc.
When Baraja was born in 2015, the two co-founders, Federico Collarte and Cibby Pulikkaseril, had already envisioned the path to a true endgame LiDAR, which started with their critical, trademarked invention of Spectrum-Scan™.
The Baraja Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR is the only true solid-state fast axis of scanning, ensuring reliable, accurate and repeatable performance with a completely solid-state FAS. Many of the components of the proprietary design are already used in the telecommunication industry, enabling low-cost and scalable manufacturing to help drive prices below the threshold for consumer vehicle uptake.
Our LiDAR can stand up to the most rugged applications and has been battle tested in one of the harshest environments in the world, Australian mines. We also have the partnerships, investments and traction to back it up.
Furthermore, our unique solid-state FAS leads to a list of other inherent benefits that lay the foundation for an even more compact, high-performing, endgame LiDAR sensor that can be used today.
The Baraja approach to solid-state: Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR
While many LiDAR companies are trying to find inertia-less solutions, solid-state design has been at the core of our technology since the beginning. With the Baraja LiDAR, the fast axis scan relies on prism-like optics and common telecommunications-grade wavelength-tuneable lasers to achieve a complete and rapid vertical scan without the need for any moving parts.
If you remember back to your early childhood science classes, you’ll probably remember the prism effect. In a classic example as shown below, a white beam of light enters from one side, turning into an evenly distributed rainbow of colors on the other. Essentially, each color represents a different frequency, or wavelength.
Now, if you were to exchange that white beam of light comprised of multiple frequencies with a beam of light using one specific color, or frequency (say, the red frequency), you would only have one single red beam propagating along the very specific direction of the red frequency. This would work the same with yellow, orange, violet, etc., leading to various light frequencies traveling along very different yet specific directions.
At Baraja, we’ve manipulated this basic principle but instead of using wavelengths you can see, we use 1550 C-band telecommunications grade lasers to create a scanning mechanism that allows you to control exactly where and when a point is projected across the FAS, ultimately allowing us to gather up-to 2000 points of data with only one laser and no-moving-parts.
Instead of reflecting a beam of light into different directions using oscillating mirrors or spinning lasers, we simply shoot our laser through optical components while rapidly changing the frequency of the laser to determine where it will exit on the other side. This not only allows for solid-state FAS, but it also provides the benefit of “on-the-fly foveation,” which enables you to instantly change the scanning pattern and increase the resolution around critical objects.
Other benefits of Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR
One of the best qualities of our solid-state FAS is that, in addition to its impressive reliability, it uses components that are already used by the telecommunications industry today, making them scalable and affordable. This foundational design also leads to interference immunity from other LiDAR sensors and external light sources, eliminates blurring or speckle effects, and results in well-collimated beams that enable effective long range.
The solid-state fast axis and Spectrum Scan™ technology are at the core of the Baraja Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR, making it robust and reliable, as proven in our mining applications, with a clear path to further improvements and endless customer outcomes.
Ensuring reliable, accurate, repeatable performance over automotive shock, vibration, thermals and lifetime requirements is an extremely challenging, almost insurmountable challenge for any high RPM mechanical system. This is why having a solid-state fast axis is such a game changer. Not only does it solve this incredibly challenging automotive reliability problem, but it also comes with additional pointcloud improvements and lays the core foundation for a miniaturised, high-performance, reliable LiDAR.
Don’t bet your future on a LiDAR that isn’t capable of solving these fundamental issues today. Contact our team at Baraja to learn more about our revolutionary Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR and how it works for your application needs.