Car part supplier Delphi has inked a deal with the Israeli LIDAR start-up company Innoviz Technologies to integrate its solid state laser scanners into its turnkey kit for autonomous cars.
LIDAR sensors are used to create 3D maps in real-time. They spin at high speed and bounce lasers off the surrounding area, building up a point cloud of depth information. From that, the vehicle can figure out what objects are around it, and how they’re moving.
The cost of LIDAR scanners, though, can be prohibitive. Though more affordable, solid-state versions are coming down the line, they’re often still the single most expensive component in a self-driving car. That has pushed some automakers, most notably Tesla, to follow other sensor routes like cameras, radar, and ultrasonics, in an attempt to bypass the more costly technology.
Delphi, though, hasn’t followed that trend. Its ‘automated driving perception suite’ integrates LIDAR data along with radar and camera-based sensing, and the company already has deals inked with specialists in those other fields. Back in August 2016, for instance, Delphi and Mobileye announced they would team up on a Level 4/5 autonomous driving system which could be ready for automakers to integrate by 2019.
The deal with Innoviz addresses bulk, performance, and cost. For a start, the sensors are said to have much longer range than rival systems, improving object-recognition at a distance. However, price is said to be lower too, and the overall footprint of the LIDAR units reduced as well.
Delphi has made an unstated minority investment in Innoviz, which was itself only founded in January 2016. The company is working on a number of types of solid-state LIDAR, including short-range systems based on infrared light, longer-range systems that scatter lasers across a high-speed MEMs mirror, and phased-array versions which could one day allow for 360-degree tracking around an entire car.