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Ams says it will be first to market with solid-state lidar illumination solutions.

ZF, ams, Ibeo Link Up for Solid-State Lidar

The long-term goal is to make solid-state lidar available for less than $100 per unit. But even the least-expensive solid-state lidar nearing market arrival carries a price of several thousand dollars.

Sensor supplier ams enters an R&D partnership with automotive lidar specialist Ibeo Automotive Systems and mobility-technology company ZF to advance solid-state lidar technology for use in autonomous driving and other applications. 

The companies will work together to ensure this technology can be quickly and safely adopted by 2021, ams says in a news release. 

Lidar is the high-resolution object detection system perched on the roof of first-generation autonomous vehicles. The optical-sensing device, constantly spinning as the vehicle moves, measures distance and direction of surrounding objects by illuminating them with a laser beam and detecting the reflection of nearby objects.  

First-generation lidar is extremely expensive – tens of thousands of dollars for a single unit. But coming solid-state technology integrates lidar functionality on a silicon chip with no moving parts, while providing higher resolution and a price range targeting less than $100 per unit, opening the door to less-expensive self-driving cars. 

But that’s a long-term pricing goal. Even the least-expensive solid-state lidar nearing market arrival carries a price of several thousand dollars. 

In the press release, ams says it will provide automotive-grade Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) arrays and drivers with greater reliability and stability than competing light sources such as edge emitters and LEDs.  

The company says it is the first to market with solid-state lidar illumination solutions, meaning no mechanical parts are needed to steer the light beam direction, improving reliability while reducing complexity, size and weight. Ams says the technology, working in tandem with radar and cameras, will help enable SAE Level 5 or fully autonomous driving. 

“Lidar is already a key technology in the automotive sector, and to date our leading products are used with automotive companies in Europe and worldwide,” Ibeo Automotive Systems CEO Ulrich Lages says. “The combination of our solution know-how with ams’ VCSEL technology will create a tipping point for solid-state lidar in the automotive sector.” 

Adds Aine Denari, ZF senior vice president-Global Electronics ADAS: “As a world leader in electric mobility and autonomous driving solutions for the automotive industry, our global capabilities and deep knowledge of integrated safety, motion control and digitalization bring a unique aspect in taking lidar to the next level on a global scale. This joint activity will help make autonomous driving a safe and secure reality globally.” 

ZF is a world leader in onboard camera systems and is increasing its stake in radar, lidar and ultrasonic technology. ZF says it will supply 60 million sensors for Level 2 vehicles in 2020.  

There are said to be at least 70 start-up companies working on next-generation lidar. 

 –with Tom Murphy 

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