Draper unveils new LiDAR that enables AVs to see in various conditions
Draper recently tested its Hemera LiDAR Detector that the company says is able to see more objects in all weather conditions. According to Draper, its Hemera LiDAR Detector "advances the science by fusing technologies from biomedicine, optics, and signal processing with advanced technologies, such as silicon photonics and proprietary algorithms, to produce an architecture that’s designed to enhance commercially available LiDARs."
Hemera says its system can extract information from more reflected light sources in the environment. The result is that the system is able to collect tens of billions of photons per second, more than most LiDAR systems which can detect only millions of photons per second.
“Typical LiDAR sensors can be confused by photons that are scattered by obscurants,” said Joseph Hollmann, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Computational Imaging Systems Development at Draper. “Draper has developed a LiDAR detection system that is designed to see past obscurants, allowing it to function better in bad weather. We designed it to perform on bright days, when reflected sunlight can confuse LiDARs, and to avoid spoofing, which is being fooled into thinking that obstacles are present when in reality there are no obstacles.”
Draper’s Hemera LiDAR Detector is designed to augment most existing LiDAR systems. The company is actively engaging with auto companies to develop systems for self-driving cars and help them to add Hemera to existing LiDAR systems, according to Sabrina Mansur, Draper’s Self-Driving Vehicle Program Manager.
In addition, Draper says it has developed, and recently advanced, a LiDAR-on-a-Chip that uses patented, all-digital MEMS optical switches for beamsteering. According to Draper, its all-digital switches provide robustness for the harsh automotive environment, which carries advantages over competing solid-state approaches that rely on analog beamsteering. In addition, the use of novel components, like optical switches, MEMS, and integrated photonics, all on a single-chip, allows Draper to "surpass current LiDARs in range and resolution."
Draper claims it has successfully built a high-resolution solid-state LiDAR that images objects at 50 m (164 ft). In the development of this achievement, Draper says demonstrated low-loss waveguides with verified losses under one dB/cm and MEMS optical switches with lifetimes surpassing 10 billion cycles.
With Draper’s LiDAR, light is emitted through a matrix of optical switches and collected through the same optical switches, which allows for a favorable signal-to-noise ratio since little ambient light is collected. The LiDAR is being developed to image a range of hundreds of meters while providing a corresponding angular resolution targeted at less than 0.1°.
“At Draper, we have experience with differing beamsteering methods, such as optical phased arrays. However, we feel MEMS optical switches provide an elegant simplicity,” said Mansur. “If we want to image a target at a specified location, we simply enable the corresponding optical switch, whereas other approaches rely on precise analog steering, which is challenging given automotive’s thermal and vibration environment.”
For more information, visit www.draper.com.