With advancements in technology and innovative engineering, cars that drive themselves aren’t too far in the future. A world of safe road transportation is within our grasp.
So, why haven’t we gotten there yet?
First, autonomous driving already exists. Most vehicles on the market today already have some level of autonomous features, whether it’s alerting you to a passing car, steering you back into your lane, or parallel parking your vehicle without assistance. There are even some fully-autonomous vehicles that are being built and tested by carmakers, and industrial vehicles, as seen with Hitachi Construction Machinery’s partnership with Baraja, that are already operating in a fully-autonomous operating design domain.
The larger hurdle isn’t about when and how we will achieve self-driving vehicles. It’s about creating an AV that is affordable, sophisticated, and most importantly, safe enough to transport some of our most precious cargo: people.
When it comes to safety, there are two main elements of an AV: the sensors that collect data from the surrounding environment and the perception algorithms that gather, interpret, and make decisions based on that data.
Inherently, the perception algorithms can only ever be as strong as the data it is provided, which makes finding the right combination of sensors so critical to designing a road-ready AV. Many of the sensors that have been adapted for autonomous vehicles come with significant limitations that prevent them from solving all the requirements for full autonomy.
For example, thermal imaging enables us to see if there is a human or animal within the driving environment, but it can’t tell us the distance, velocity, or which direction the object is moving - actively. Cameras, on the other hand, can show objects and movement but are incapable of measuring instantaneous velocity and are easily blinded by, fog, rain, or other external factors. Ultrasound is only capable of measuring short distances and although radar can achieve incredible distances, it lacks the resolution necessary to decipher and classify objects.
LiDAR is the only of the five sensor options that can precisely detect, measure, and track objects at short and long ranges. Doppler-enabled LiDAR takes it a step further by also instantaneously tracking the direction and velocity of that object, giving us a level of accuracy that is arguably more trustworthy than the human eye!
Essentially, while an AV can operate using other sensors, it cannot operate at the required level of safety and accuracy that it can with LiDAR as a part of its sensor suite in all ODD (Operational Design Domain) and corner cases.
While LiDAR is capable of meeting each of the strict automotive requirements, there are still flaws to many LiDAR designs that need to be solved. For starters, LiDAR sensors are often known for being big, bulky, and expensive. Further, the industry has already been let down several times by LiDAR companies who made big claims but didn’t follow through on them.
“Given the history of LiDAR, it’s easy to see why there is some industry skepticism. The only way to prevent becoming a commodity is to create a solution that is so superior to anything else on the market, and in the case of LiDAR, that means having technology that is better, more reliable, higher quality and cheaper than the competition.” – Pieter Kerstens, VP Engineering, Baraja.
However, a new type of LiDAR is on the horizon.
The Baraja Spectrum-Scan™ takes a revolutionary, patented approach to LiDAR, solving critical performance issues while also meeting stringent production and customer requirements, such as manufacturability, cost, immunity to interference and seamless vehicle integration.
The performance and durability of Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR have already been tested and proven in the mining industry, and now, with a partnership with the Tier-1 supplier Veoneer and a recent advanced development agreement with a global automotive OEM brand, Spectrum-Scan™ is well on its way to enabling the next wave of safer vehicles on the road.
At Baraja, we believe you have to see it to believe, which is why we offer private test drives to investors and reporters who want to see for themselves what our Spectrum-Scan™ is capable of. Contact our sales team today if you would like to learn more about Spectrum-Scan™ and schedule a test drive of the Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR solution.