from the it-takes-more-than-two-points-to-define-an-object dept.
Technology Review looks at the next generation of affordable LIDAR units and finds the tech lacking in resolution and/or range relative to the needs of self driving cars. The $80,000 "coffee can" LIDAR that has been used for R&D has 64 beams and 120 meter range. The low cost units have as few as 4 beams at wider spacing. This leads the author to suggest that the first generation of cars with LIDAR may only use the self-driving features at lower speeds.
The French auto parts maker Valeo, for example, claims to have built what it says is the world's first laser scanner for cars that's ready for high-volume production, the SCALA. It features four lines of data with an angular resolution of 0.8°. Automotive News previously reported that Valeo will provide the lidar sensor used in the new Audi A8, though at the time of writing Audi declined to confirm this and Valeo didn't respond to a request for details. The new A8 is the first production car to feature LIDAR and can drive itself—but only in heavy traffic at speeds less than 37 miles per hour.
Several other companies (established and startups) are discussed and there are some LIDAR photos at different scan density for comparison. The low res images would be very hard to use for object recognition, with only a few points.
The article comments include a short discussion of laser strength and possible eye damage that it might be interesting to expand. One comment suggests that even though UV and IR are not visible, at high enough power they can still damage eyes.
We are looking toward a near-future where roads are bathed in laser light and, for example, with cars driving up hill, possibly scanning low flying aircraft?