Why does it mat­ter?

Wheels (Australia) - - Redline - DANIEL GARD­NER

The im­age of a con­stantly chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment is crit­i­cal for a self­driv­ing car as it al­lows it to see po­ten­tial haz­ards, pedes­tri­ans and other road users, while en­abling the ve­hi­cle to fol­low a course be­tween static ob­jects.

Not only can the tech­nol­ogy es­tab­lish where an ob­ject is, it can also tell what it is, which en­ables the car to more ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine if some­thing is haz­ardous. Cur­rent sys­tems al­low ac­cu­rate re­al­time de­tec­tion of ob­jects up to 250 me­tres away, which of­fers more time for a ve­hi­cle to re­act, while the de­tail of the dig­i­tal im­age is un­ri­valled by any other tech­nol­ogy with a sim­i­lar range. Radar tech­nol­ogy has a very long range but is only adept at sens­ing large ob­jects. Cam­era tech­nol­ogy has high de­tail sen­si­tiv­ity but a sup­port­ing sys­tem must use com­plex tech­nol­ogy to in­ter­pret a 3D world from a 2D im­age, which gets harder at longer ranges.

LIDAR is a rel­a­tive new­comer to the sur­vey­ing tech world and re­quires sig­nif­i­cant re­search and de­vel­op­ment for au­ton­o­mous ap­pli­ca­tions. The cost per ve­hi­cle is still in the re­gion of thou­sands of dol­lars and the sys­tems have to be made more re­li­able, durable and scal­able, but as the tech­nol­ogy ad­vances, LIDAR will be the cor­ner­stone of true level four and five self-driv­ing cars.

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