Self-driving cars have to be able to "see" where they're going, and one way to do that is by using a LiDAR sensor. Velodyne has announced a new sensor, the Puck Hi-Res, that it says allows vehicles to see farther and with more clarity.
Velodyne's sensors are used by a number of major carmakers, including Ford. Indeed, the research firm Frost & Sullivan says it expects Velodyne to play a key role in a surge of autonomous vehicle development over the next few years.
LiDAR sensors use lasers to map their surroundings in 3D, bouncing light off objects to detect them and to determine how far away they are. In the case of the Puck Hi-Res, this is achieved at a rate of 300,000 points per second, which is significantly less than Velodyne's existing HDL-32E sensor that scans at 700,000 points per second. The Hi-Res is reportedly capable of bumping up the captured detail, though.
To do so, it has 16 channels, each combining a laser emitter and detector, arranged at tighter 1.33-degree intervals rather than at 2-degree intervals in other sensors. This means it has a smaller vertical field-of-view than might otherwise be the case, at 20 degrees, but the image that's captured is of a higher resolution. As a result, the sensor can better detect and discern objects at greater distances, with a range of 100 m (328 ft). As with Velodyne's other models, it is able to capture images in a 360-degree horizontal panorama, rotating at a rate of 5-20 Hz.
Velodyne tells New Atlas that it is not aware of a product that can directly compete with the Puck Hi-Res. No other solutions, it says, combines 16 channels with the same vertical field of view and tight channel spacing.
The Puck Hi-Res is available to order now, with a lead-time of around eight weeks. Velodyne won't release pricing information to non-customers.