Under the skin: Lumotive takes lidar to the next level Car News

Automakers have been working on self-driving cars for decades, but the prospect (some would say a specter) of driverless cars has become more likely over the past 10 years. A level four self-driving car is a car that requires no human attention, and even to approach it will need at least human-like vision and cognitive powers.

Leaving aside the cognitive aspect, vision is still the subject of intensive research but the American firm Lumotive, founded in 2018, could have the answer. Vehicles need to be able to see a digital representation of what a driver sees to create a high-definition 3D map of their surroundings, including the size and position of all objects around them. They also need to know how fast objects are moving and in what direction.

Lidar (direction and ranging of light) is still considered essential to full autonomy. It works by scanning the scene with pulses of laser light, which are reflected to create a “dot map” of the environment. This originally involved mounting a huge rotating scanner on the roof of the research cars to send and receive the pulses of light, much the same way radar (radio detection and ranging) sends and receives radio signals. Lidar is able to locate objects within a few centimeters at a distance of several hundred meters.

Further developments have led to the miniaturization of the concept by replacing heavy rotating scanners with laser arrays or MEMS (micro-electromechanical system) mirror lidars. MEMS systems involve tiny rotating mirrors to reflectively “steer” the laser beam around a scene.

In contrast, the Lumotive Meta-Lidar platform is based on Light Control Metasurface (LCM) solid-state beam steering chips to allow deflection, or “steering”, of a laser source without the need for moving parts. A metasurface is a metasurface that can change its state under electronic control.

In this case, the reflective surface is based on liquid crystals and can be made from conventional materials according to well-established manufacturing techniques. The surface is software controlled and can be configured for different applications instead of making mechanical changes to the chip. A second LCM receives the reflected laser pulse, which is processed to create a high definition image (as a point cloud) of the scene. The Meta-Lidar is scalable, so it can be designed for short and long range use.

Earlier this year, Lumotive and automotive lighting specialist ZKW demonstrated a fully functional headlight unit incorporating a Meta-Lidar Platform M30 module to illustrate how well it can be integrated into vehicles. The high resolution M30 is the size of a golf ball and has a range of 20 meters and a wide field of view. It’s the first in a series of modules that will have a range of up to 200 meters and can identify shapes as small as 1cc for integration into phones and other devices.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-07 00:01:23

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