Archive for the ‘lidar’ Category

Tesla’s main self-driving rival isn’t Google—it’s Intel’s Mobileye

January 13th, 2021
A man at a podium smiles while holding up a palm-sized computer component.

Enlarge / Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua shows off a silicon photonics lidar chip slated for introduction in 2025. (credit: Mobileye)

One of the most underrated companies in the self-driving technology sector is Mobileye, an Israeli company that Intel purchased for $15 billion in 2017. Mobileye is the largest supplier of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that ship with today's cars. In a Monday interview at the virtual CES conference, Mobileye explained its strategy to stay on top as the industry shifts to fully self-driving vehicles.

Mobileye's self-driving strategy has a number of things in common with that of Tesla, the world's most valuable automaker. Like Tesla, Mobileye is aiming to gradually evolve its current driver-assistance technology into a fully self-driving system. So far, neither company has shipped products with the expensive lidar sensors used in many self-driving prototypes.

And like Tesla, Mobileye has access to a wealth of real-world driving data from its customers' cars. Tesla harvests data directly from Tesla customers. Mobileye has data-sharing agreements with six car companies—including Volkswagen, BMW, and Nissan—that ship Mobileye's cameras, chips, and software.

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Posted in Amnon Shashua, autopilot, cars, Intel, lidar, Mobileye, Tesla | Comments (0)

Lidar startup goes public, makes founder a billionaire

December 4th, 2020
Luminar CEO Austin Russell

Enlarge / Luminar CEO Austin Russell. (credit: Luminar)

Luminar founder Austin Russell has become one of the youngest self-made billionaires after the lidar maker debuted on public markets on Thursday. Russell, 25, was just 17 when he founded Luminar in 2012. Shares of Luminar rose above $30 a share on Friday, a massive 43 percent gain for the day on top of big gains on Thursday.

Luminar has emerged as one of the leading companies in the fast-growing lidar industry.  Carmakers are expected to begin offering lidar as an advanced option for their vehicles in the next few years to enable better driver-assistance technology. Right now, lidar companies are vying to win contracts to supply these sensors.

Luminar had a major win in May when it signed a deal with Volvo to supply lidar sensors for vehicles starting in 2022. It was one of the first such deals in the industry.

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Posted in cars, lidar, Luminar, SPAC | Comments (0)

Lidar is becoming a real business

September 8th, 2020
An Ouster sensor atop a Postmates robot.

Enlarge / An Ouster sensor atop a Postmates robot. (credit: Ouster)

For years, the lidar business has had a lot of hype but not a lot of hard numbers. Dozens of lidar startups have touted their impressive technology, but until recently it wasn't clear who, if anyone, was actually gaining traction with customers.

That's starting to change. This summer, three leading lidar makers have done major fundraising rounds that included releasing public data on their financial performance.

The latest lidar maker to release financial data is Ouster, which announced a $42 million fundraising round in a Tuesday blog post. That blog post also revealed a striking statistic: the company says it now has 800 customers.

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Posted in cars, lidar, Luminar, Ouster, Velodyne | Comments (0)

Archaeologists discover the largest—and oldest—Maya monument ever

June 3rd, 2020
Archaeologists discover the largest—and oldest—Maya monument ever

Enlarge (credit: Inomata et al. 2020)

The Mayan culture built city-states across Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize for centuries, but we’re only starting to appreciate how extensive Maya civilization was and how drastically Maya farmers and engineers reworked the Mesoamerican landscape. Over the last few years, lidar surveys have revealed an ancient landscape previously hidden beneath vegetation and features that are too large-scale to recognize from the ground. Aguada Fenix, a newly discovered monument site, is the latter.

“A horizontal construction on this scale is difficult to recognize from the ground level,” wrote University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues. The earthen platform is 1.4 kilometers (0.87 miles) long and 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet) tall, with raised earthen causeways connecting it to groups of smaller platforms nearby. Based on excavations at the site, it served as a ceremonial center for the Maya.

Inomata explained further, "This area is developed—it’s not the jungle; people live there, but this site was not known because it is so flat and huge. It just looks like a natural landscape. But with lidar, it pops up as a very well-planned shape.” The team first noticed the platform in a set of low-resolution lidar images collected by the Mexican government, and they followed up with higher-resolution surveys and then excavations at the site.

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Posted in aerial archaeology, airborne archaeology, ancient central america, Archaeology, central america, lidar, Maya, Mesoamerica, mexico, monument building, neolithic, Olmec, Pre-Columbian civilizations, science | Comments (0)

A huge Scottish hillfort is the largest settlement in medieval Britain

May 20th, 2020
A huge Scottish hillfort is the largest settlement in medieval Britain

Enlarge (credit: University of Aberdeen)

On a hilltop overlooking a small Scottish village lie the buried remains of the largest settlement in medieval Britain. About 4,000 people lived within the community’s earthen ramparts during its heyday in the 400s and 500s CE. That’s around the time the Picts of northeastern Scotland were banding together into kingdoms to defend themselves against rival groups.

Until recently, archaeologists assumed the fortified community was much older and much smaller. But a recent lidar survey, combined with excavations on the hill, revealed a large urban center thriving in the centuries just after Rome left Britain. A drone carrying lidar instruments sent over the site, called Tap O’Noth, mapped the long-buried foundations of about 800 huts, clustered in groups and along pathways. The huts were all within the 17 acres encircled by an earthen rampart on Tap O’Noth’s lower slopes. If each hut was home to about four or five people, that’s a total population of 3,200 to 4,000.

“That’s verging on urban in scale, and in a Pictish context we have nothing else that compares to this. We had previously assumed that you would need to get to around the 12th century in Scotland before settlements started to reach this size,” said University of Aberdeen archaeologist Gordon Noble. In an email to Ars, he added, “We really don’t have any parallels for a site this large in early medieval Britain.”

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Posted in airborne archaeology, Archaeology, celtic, hillforts, lidar, medieval archaeology, medieval Europe, Picts, science, Scotland | Comments (0)

Volvo plans cars with lidar and “eyes off” highway driving by 2022

May 6th, 2020
The roof of a high-end sedan.

Enlarge / A Volvo roofline with integrated Luminar lidar sensor. (credit: Volvo)

Volvo will begin producing vehicles with powerful lidar sensors from startup Luminar, the Swedish company announced on Wednesday. It's a significant milestone for the automotive industry as well as a major coup for Luminar. Volvo invested in Luminar in 2018.

Lidar sensors will be available starting in 2022 as part of the SPA 2 architecture—the successor to the SPA 1 architecture that underlies many of Volvo's cars today. While Volvo hasn't announced specific model information, this likely means that the lidar will be available on vehicles like the XC-90 starting with the 2023 model year.

While some leading high-end lidars spin 360 degrees, Luminar's sensors are fixed in place with a 120-degree horizontal field of view. Volvo plans to integrate Luminar's lidar into the car's roof just above the windshield, where it will have a good view of the road ahead of the vehicle.

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Posted in cars, lidar, Luminar, self driving cars, volvo | Comments (0)

Single-chip lidar routing is in our tiny future

April 29th, 2020
Image of a figure-eight race track.

Enlarge / A bit like this, except for photons. (credit: Image Alliance/Getty Images)

Sometimes you can't seem to go a week without hearing new lidar news. This is disconcerting, as lidar was the desperation application for lasers for a very long time. If you had made a new pulsed laser and couldn't think what it might be good for, you figured out something that needed a measurement at distance and claimed your laser was useful for that application. At best, you'd give the laser to an atmospheric scientist and get them to measure the density of aerosols in the upper atmosphere.

OK, maybe that's a bit cynical, but for a very long time, lidar research was an unvisited backwater port on the sea of laser physics. But new research demonstrates how much this has changed: a new device that has wide applications and will probably make a huge impact in optical communications. Yet the device is being sold as great for lidar, which it may well be.

Lidar is hard

It wasn't that lidar was unattractive to engineers in the past. It's more that lidar was unwieldy. Lasers were big, the pulse durations were too long, the collection optics to get the signals were large, the electronics were simple... but big. Lidar instruments were delicate. The idea of putting an expensive and breakable device in the grille of a nitrous-injected Honda Civic, driven by a hormonal boy racer, probably didn't thrill many engineers.

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Posted in integrated optics, lidar, nonlinear optics, science | Comments (0)

Apple’s new high-end iPhones will feature an iPhone 5-like design

April 13th, 2020
The rounded corners and flat edges of the iPad Pro, which the new flagship iPhones are said to mimic.

Enlarge / The rounded corners and flat edges of the iPad Pro, which the new flagship iPhones are said to mimic. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple will introduce four new iPhones this fall, according to a Bloomberg report, and at least some of them will sport a new design reminiscent of the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models or the iPhone 5.

Citing people familiar with Apple's plans, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman writes that in addition to successors to 2019's iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple will introduce not one but two successors to the iPhone 11. However, the report does not go into as much detail about the lower-end phones as it does the flagships.

The 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max successors will have "flat, stainless steel edges... as well as sharply rounded corners" similar to what you may remember from the iPhone 5 back in 2012 and likely taking much more explicit cues from the iPad Pro design first introduced in 2018 and refreshed just a few weeks ago. They will also have flat screens rather than the curved edges found in today's iPhones and smaller notches on the front. Also, at least the larger of the two flagships will have a slightly larger screen than its predecessor.

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Posted in AI, apple, Apple Tags, Apple TV, ar, Bloomberg, HomePod, HomePod mini, iMac, ipad, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iphone 5, lidar, MacBook Pro, Tech | Comments (0)

Apple’s new iPad Pro has trackpad support, lidar, and an 8-core GPU

March 18th, 2020

Apple's 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets got major updates today. Most notably, Apple added a totally new dual-camera system with a lidar scanner, confirming rumors that the company would bring a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor to the device to improve the accuracy and speed of augmented reality (AR) applications.

Additionally, the iPad Pro has a new system-on-a-chip called the A12Z (not the A13X like previous nomenclature suggested). Among other things, it has an 8-core GPU that promises 2.6x faster graphics performance than the A10X and a more modest improvement over the A12X. Apple says the new iPad Pro has an enhanced thermal design as well.

That new rear-camera array has a 12MP (ƒ/1.8 aperture) wide-angle camera, plus a 10MP (ƒ/2.4) ultra-wide angle camera with a 125-degree field of view. Like the new iPhone 11 models from late last year, the ultra-wide enables a 2x optical out shooting mode. Since there's no telephoto lens, though, it only supports digital zoom. Both the wide and ultra-wide lenses can record 4K video at 50 frames per second.

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Posted in apple, ipad, ipad pro, lidar, magic keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio, tablets, Tech, ToF, trackpad | Comments (0)

How lidar makers are coping with slow progress of self-driving tech

February 11th, 2020
An experimental self-driving car from Cruise Automation is festooned with lidar sensors.

Enlarge / An experimental self-driving car from Cruise Automation is festooned with lidar sensors. (credit: Dllu)

The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show was absolutely crawling with companies hawking lidar. Short for light radar (yes, really), this powerful type of sensor generates a three-dimensional pointcloud of its surroundings. Experts and industry insiders not named Elon Musk see it as a key technology for self-driving cars. There are dozens of companies developing lidar technology, and each insists that its sensor is a cut above the rest.

But while every lidar is above-average in the halls of CES, things are starting to look different in the real world. At least one segment of the market—custom robots for warehouses, mines, and other industrial sites—is starting to buy lidar sensors in significant volume. Another segment—low-end lidars used in car driver-assistance systems—is poised to become a big market in the next couple of years.

For this piece I asked both lidar company officials and independent experts to help me understand the state of the lidar market. They told me that Velodyne—the company that invented modern three-dimensional lidar more than a decade ago—continues to dominate the industry.

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Posted in aeva, AEye, Baraja, cars, Features, lidar, Livox, Luminar, Ouster, Sense Photonics, Velodyne | Comments (0)