The LIDAR sensor is the "eye" of a driverless car.

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LIDAR is a hybrid of "light" (light) and "radar" (radar). These sensors detect the surrounding environment by emitting light to other objects and then measuring the time the light is reflected back. The LIDAR effect is good enough, but not perfect. At present, the LIDAR sensor used in driverless cars has a large head and high price. For example, the LIDAR sensor used in every Google driverless car in the early days was worth $80,000 (about 509,000 yuan). Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "In the Driverless City Challenge of the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, most participating cars are used. A sensor worth $500,000 (approximately RMB 3.181 million)."

According to the Wired website, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, said they have developed new laser technology that can significantly reduce the energy, size, weight and cost of LIDAR sensors, and may lead to more different People drive vehicles. Weijian Yang, one of the researchers at the project, said, “This is important for unmanned vehicles on land and in the air.”

Yang Weijian's research work aims to improve LIDAR, reduce the cost of driverless cars and other vehicles, and strive to make it more widely used. SICK, Germany, is already selling a LIDAR that sells for less than $10,000 (about RMB 64,000), including researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Research Foundation of Singapore, including Ruth, who have recently used no more than Four sets of SICK's LIDAR sensors have developed an unmanned golf cart. With improvements in LIDAR sensor technology and data processing algorithms, driverless technology will not only be used in cars, but will also be used in other smaller-sized devices, including golf carts, robots, and unmanned aircraft.

Construction of LIDAR

By continuously changing the laser wavelength, LIDAR allows the sensor to correctly identify the light reflected and received by the object. Wavelength changes require precise manipulation of the lens (sometimes multiple lenses). Typically, the lens is manipulated by a separate electrical device. "Connected" said that Yang Weijian and his team took a different approach and used the laser itself to manipulate the lens.

Yang Weijian said, “The lens does not need an external device. The laser can automatically change the position of the lens. The light has a certain amount of power.” LIDAR sensors no longer require other electrical equipment, and the size, weight and energy consumption will be reduced. The laser unit can be integrated with the lens and the entire LIDAR sensor can be scaled down to hundreds of square microns. Power is available from the corresponding AA battery.

More accurate image

According to Yang Weijian, this technology can be used to improve the optical coherence tomography (OCT) quality of medical imaging equipment, but its most interesting possibility lies in robots. Yang Weijian said that their technology can make the laser wavelength change more frequently - shortening the time interval from about 10 milliseconds to 1 microsecond, which means that a LIDAR sensor can get more data more quickly. In other words, it provides a more accurate image of the surrounding environment.

"Connected," said Emilio Frazzoli, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher who worked with Ruth to develop a driverless golf cart, said the smaller, lower cost LIDAR sensor for the near future The driverless car is not indispensable. "At present, LIDAR sensors are still costly, but they are getting better and cheaper. I don't think it will become a driverless car. bottleneck". He pointed out that even with the current LIDAR sensor, the price of driverless cars still has an advantage over traditional car + full-time drivers. But he pointed out that better sensors are certainly welcome, especially for other applications. In fact, Yang Weijian believes that his research work will help to generate more types of unmanned vehicles and robots. In the next few years, the number of machines with "eyes" will exceed expectations.

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