As well versed as I like to think I am when it comes to autonomous truck technology, I have to admit I didn’t realize that lidar (light detection and ranging systems) have moving parts. But it’s true. Just like old radar antennas, lidar systems have a moving internal array, which oscillates back and forth over a preset range, sending out light beams and collecting any returns once they bounce off objects they encounter.
And I don’t have to tell you that in the rough-and-tumble world of trucking, moving parts are never a great idea when it comes to sensitive electronic components. But an autonomous sensor company called Opsys Technologies says it’s solved that problem.
At CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2023 in January Opsys showed a select group of automotive and trucking journalists what it says is the first solid state lidar system for autonomous cars and trucks. The new system is the Pure Solid State Scanning Lidar system, and Opsys stresses that it has no vibration-sensitive moving parts.
Opsys calls its new lidar system a “next generation detector” with higher partial differential equation (PDE) and a larger array, which give the unit improved detection range and a higher resolution of objects. The improved optics reduce unwanted light and improve uniformity, as well as enhanced illumination. It also has an optimized ASIC/processor (also for lower power dissipation and cost) to allow advanced processing of data.
Additionally, Opsys claims that new solid state lidar design will offer autonomous vehicle designers reduced cost, and a field of view increase of more than 30%. The larger detector array also has reduced chip count.
Perhaps most significantly, the new system does not have to be mounted externally on a vehicle – a requirement for earlier generation lidar systems which suffered from reflectivity issues with automotive glass.
Opsys says its system can be installed behind the driver’s windshield, giving more flexibility for OEMs and designers in terms of where the sensor array is situated. This allows for easier installation with no significant reduction in the unit’s performance capabilities and no need for a dedicated cleaning system to insure unit accuracy. It also allows designers to integrate the lidar system within a vehicle’s lighting system (both front and back) – all of which results in minimal changes to vehicle design. (No need for bulky, drag-inducing, sensor canister-type arrays, for example).
Opsys says it intends to enter into full production with its Pure Solid State Scanning Lidar in the first quarter of 2024.