Autonomous vehicles will need to quickly and reliably detect all obstacles in their path. To date, this task has primarily been undertaken using LiDAR, radar, and visible-light sensing; while all offer useful capabilities, none can guarantee detection under all conditions, especially when factors such as rain, snow, fog, smoke, glare, and low light are involved.
Far infrared (FIR) detectors have two capabilities that make them excellent candidates for use in comprehensive sensing solutions alongside other technologies. First, FIR sensors can “see” the heat emitted by objects in the form of thermal infrared photons, even in the absence of visible light. Second, FIR sensors can help distinguish among different types of objects based on how effectively they emit radiation (their emissivity). These two types of information open new avenues for detecting and identifying obstacles and determining how to respond to them.