Solid-state Lidar could be the key to autonomous systems
One nearly ubiquitous element on early autonomous vehicle prototypes was the spinning mechanical lidar unit usually perched atop the car. Lidar measures the distance to targets by sending out pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths go into making digital 3D-representations of the scene. Trouble is, those mechanical lidar units run $8,000 and up – way too expensive for production vehicles. So, the quest is on for a cheaper solid-state version. One candidate is the silicon photomultiplier chip, here displayed by Hamamatsu’s Ardeshir Esmaeili, that would be paired with laser diodes in a solid-state sensor. It excels in weak light situations.
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