July 28, 2021
Why I joined Baraja as VP of Engineering
Pieter Kerstens, VP of Engineering
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From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by the world of science and technology. My childhood days were spent tinkering with electronics, experimenting with my chemistry kit, and dreaming of becoming an electrical engineer who would one day invent something that would change the world.

Now, after 30 exciting years helping brands like IBM, Philips and Hitachi, develop their technologies and bring them to market, I have found myself in a position to be a part of something even bigger.

As the new Vice President of Engineering at Baraja, I get to join the inventive minds of Baraja founders, Cibby Pulikkaseril and Federico Collarte, the talented engineers who have helped develop the Baraja LiDAR into what is it today, and other industry experts, such as Paul Eichenberg, Jim Kane and Yannick Lize, who have also recognized the promising potential of Baraja’s LiDAR technology and its ability to change the world.

At Baraja, I will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle movement and help present to the world the first LiDAR to enable true L4 autonomous driving technology.

The journey to Baraja

It was sometime slightly before my role at Velodyne Lidar that I became interested in autonomous driving technology – from the “simple” features of L2 technology to futuristic L5 autonomous vehicles without steering wheels or pedals.

I quickly realized LiDAR is an essential sensor to making these advanced self-driving vehicles possible. At the same time, I noticed most LiDAR sensors on the market were still very expensive, relied on lots of moving parts, were unattractively big and bulky, and filled with a lot of hardware that sits idle most of the time. So, I started thinking more and more about what a reliable, compact and economical LiDAR sensor would look like.

Even after leaving Velodyne, the thought never left my mind, and I continued to spend my free time following various LiDAR companies to find technology that had the capability of enabling on-the-road autonomous driving. Eventually, this search led to me a white paper by Baraja, a LiDAR start-up based in Australia.

I quickly became intrigued by its capabilities: interference immunity, range and resolution, and a vertical scan with no moving parts. It even utilized technology that has long been deployed in the communication and fiberoptic industry, meaning the technology was reliable, scalable, and likely economical. It had all of the components a LiDAR needs to truly enable high-level autonomous driving.

I was hooked and determined to work with them. So, I contacted the founders and we immediately agreed there was a good match. Now, my wife and I are planning our move from California to Sydney, Australia. I look forward to using my expertise as a technologist and team leader to help Baraja assemble the right talent, resources and roadmap to bring their LiDAR to market.

Qualifying for the role

I used to think my career felt scattered, always taking on new and different roles. What’s interesting about this position at Baraja is that all of my past experiences, personal interests and passions serve a purpose in this role. I feel like I am the perfect fit for Baraja.

In my first job after my studies, I was tasked with developing 3D maps from moving images, where I first developed my passion for images and mapping. I then moved into positions helping to develop hard disks, LED lighting technology, a parallel eBeam inspection tool, and even LiDAR technologies at another company.

I’ve dealt with high-tech engineering and manufacturing management, managed both small and large teams, and have worked with everything from high-volume low mix products to very complex, low-volume equipment and from LiDAR technology to fiber optics for telecommunications – the inspiration for the Spectrum-Scan™ platform.

Throughout my career, I’ve always followed my interests and curiosity, and now, I have found a position where all of these amassed experiences can serve something greater.

Pieter Kerstens, VP of Engineering

What sets Baraja apart

Many LiDAR companies have approached me in the last 5+ years, some of which are public and working with Tier 1 suppliers, but I never really thought any of them had the technology to win. Baraja, on the other hand, has the technology and the talent to make it to the finish line.

I’m not the only one who believes in this technology either. Baraja was chosen as 1 out of 70 by Veoneer, a Tier 1 supplier that heavily researched competitors before deciding to partner with Baraja.

One of the biggest issues with LiDAR sensors is interference immunity, the ability to reject frequencies from external light sources and other LiDAR sensors, and Baraja has solved this with its Spectrum-Scan™ technology. It is also able to achieve a range of over 200m without relying on heavy reflectivity like most other LiDAR sensors.

Finally, LiDAR sensors need to be compact and cost-effective, which requires fewer parts and low-cost components. With Baraja, there is a clear path to drastically reducing the size. And, because they are customizing technology that already exists, its components are easy and inexpensive to source.

Many well-funded LiDAR companies that use technologies like MEMS, moving mirrors, or flash LiDAR are starting to realize the shortcomings of these technologies, such as performing on a moving car with heavy vibration, reject interference, or the inability to capture clear images of objects at over 200m.

Now, these companies are recognizing they need something like what Baraja has and are shifting their focus to continuous wave (CW) technology. However, even if they were to find a solution, they’re still going to be years behind Baraja, which has been developing something like this from the beginning. Especially with our recent Tier 1 partnership, I think we’ll be able to quickly develop and produce LiDAR sensors for the mass market.

Baraja may not be very well known yet, but I think a lot of people will soon become aware of us. I believe Baraja will become a family name in the sense that on your car, it will have a sticker that says ‘Baraja LiDAR,’ and people are going to look for cars that have a Baraja sensor.

Join the Baraja movement

Industry experts from around the world are joining Baraja and its one-of-a-kind breakthrough LiDAR technology in an effort to realize truly autonomous driving. Will you be a part of the disruption? Meet the technology driving this breakthrough in our in-depth white paper.

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