Velodyne Rolling Out 128-Laser Beam LiDAR To Maintain Driverless Car Vision Lead

https://goo.gl/s87nLG

Velodyne VLS 128 LiDAR
A street image created by Velodyne’s new VLS-128 LiDAR sensor, top, has 10 times the resolution of an image from its previous top-end unit, below.

Forbes: Velodyne, the top supplier of sensors that give self-driving cars 360-degree, 3D vision, is releasing a significantly enhanced laser LiDAR that can see further and with higher image resolution than anything currently available amid rising competition from startups touting cheaper or higher-quality sensors.

The tech company created by David Hall, who patented the first spinning LiDAR for driverless vehicles more than a decade ago, begins shipping initial units of its 128-laser beam VLS-128 in December, with production to expand in 2018. The sensor has at least 10 times the resolution of Velodyne’s previous top-end model and can see dark objects in a vehicle’s path as far away as the length of three football fields.

“We want to be able to see tire debris out on a road and then steer around it,” Hall told Forbes. “The current thinking is that’s about 300 meters, and it has to see something pretty black. We think we can do that with this device.”

Self-driving cars need artificial intelligence and cutting-edge computing power to understand and react to road conditions and surroundings. Just like human drivers, they also need to see. Cameras and radar are already standard equipment on many new vehicles, alerting drivers of pedestrians and nearby hazards they may not notice. But LiDAR’s ability to create detailed, somewhat ghostly “point cloud” images of surroundings – in virtually all lighting and weather conditions and at long range – makes it a vital tool for robotic cars.

Velodyne got a big head start in the optical sensor market when it supplied 64-beam LiDAR units to contestants in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, a legendary engineering competition that helped ignite the self-driving car revolution. Now its racing to complete a fully automated factory in San Jose to supply up to a million of the vision devices a year to auto and tech customers making driverless cars, which Halls expects to help drive down the cost of the exotic optical devices in the process.

Hall declined to discuss pricing for the new product, beyond confirming that initial units will cost several thousand dollars. Product refinements and mass production will lower the cost significantly, he said, without elaborating.

Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving tech company, outfits its vehicles with long- and short-range LiDARs the company says it designed in-house. GM recently bought Strobe, a little-known LiDAR company in Southern California that is developing a highly low cost “chip scale” sensor, while Germany’s Ibeo is expanding its automotive LiDAR business. And since 2016, startups including AEye, Innoviz, Quanergy, LeddarTech, Luminar and Oryx Vision have announced funding deals and industry partnerships to get their sensors to market as quickly as possible.

So far, few of those companies are producing in high volume, while Velodyne will supply tens of thousands of LiDAR sensors to customers this year. To maintain its advantage, there’s also pressure to keep improving its products.

The new model “represents all of Velodyne’s learning from having built and deployed LiDAR sensors around the world for more than a decade,” said Chief Technology Officer Anand Gopalan. “Range and resolution are both critical, and we’ve tried to maximize both, maintaining a 360-degree field of view and a high frame rate. And as far at the long-range resolution goes, there’s nothing out there that matches the 128.”

128-post-128
The new VLS-128, right, has twice as many lasers and 10 times the resolution of the company’s previous high-end sensor, the HDL-64, left.

Alan Ohnsman covers technology-driven changes reshaping transportation. Follow him on Twitter. Have tips to share with Forbes anonymously? Click here.

Via: Velodyne

Velodyne LiDAR Opens Megafactory in San Jose for production of 3D LiDAR Sensors

 

MORGAN HILL, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Velodyne LiDAR Inc., the recognized global leader in Light, Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, today announced the opening of a Megafactory that will significantly ramp up production of the latest 3D LiDAR sensors to meet high global demand.

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Located in San Jose, CA, the enormous facility not only has enough space for high-volume manufacturing, but also for the precise distance and ranging alignment process for LiDAR sensors as they come off the assembly line. The Megafactory is already producing Velodyne’s HDL-64 LiDAR sensor, with production ramping up across Velodyne’s entire product portfolio and more than one million LiDAR sensors expected to be built in the facility in 2018. That high-volume manufacturing will feed the global demand for Velodyne’s solid-state hybrid LiDAR, the primary and critical instrument needed for autonomous car systems around the world.

“This Megafactory provides Velodyne LiDAR the space it requires to manufacture its cutting edge, long-range sensors in a single location, as well as the ability to scale to meet growing global customer demand for LiDAR while pursuing an aggressive growth strategy,” said Mark Shandley, vice president of operations, Velodyne LiDAR. “In addition, the location in Santa Clara County is ideal, as it allows us to produce LiDAR sensors in the US with a skilled workforce alongside precision robotic manufacturing processes so we can continue to grow and deliver world-class products.”

In addition to the San Jose Megafactory, Velodyne LiDAR has also opened a new research and development facility in Alameda, CA. Known as Velodyne Labs, this location focuses on building advanced LiDAR, ASICs chip technology, and new solutions to complete and compliment the company’s existing LiDAR lineup. The Megafactory and R&D facility join existing corporate and production facilities in Morgan Hill, as well as new or expanding sales offices in Northern California, the Midwest, East Coast, Europe, and Asia. Taken together, Velodyne LiDAR has positioned itself in 2017 to increase its leadership position in the development and production of LiDAR sensors that provide 3D vision for industrial applications, UAVs, and a rapidly expanding autonomous vehicle industry. In fact, Velodyne LiDAR is actively hiring in all locations for talent in a multitude of opportunities.

About Velodyne LiDAR

Founded in 1983 by David S. Hall, Velodyne Acoustics Inc. first disrupted the premium audio market through Hall’s patented invention of virtually distortion-less, servo-driven subwoofers. Hall subsequently leveraged his knowledge of robotics and 3D visualization systems to invent ground breaking sensor technology for self-driving cars and 3D mapping, introducing the HDL-64 Solid-State Hybrid LiDAR sensor in 2005. Since then, Velodyne LiDAR has emerged as the leading supplier of solid-state hybrid LiDAR sensor technology used in a variety of commercial applications including advanced automotive safety systems, autonomous driving, 3D mobile mapping, 3D aerial mapping and security. The compact, lightweight HDL-32E sensor is available for applications including UAVs, while the VLP-16 LiDAR Puck is a 16-channel LiDAR sensor that is both substantially smaller and dramatically less expensive than previous generation sensors. To read more about the technology, including white papers, visit http://www.velodynelidar.com.

Contacts

for Velodyne LiDAR
Andrew Hussey, 408-966-5078
andrew.hussey@porternovelli.com
or
Velodyne LiDAR
Laurel Nissen, 408-465-2871
lnissen@velodyne.com

Via Business Wire