Fully Autonomous Vehicles Many Years Away

Earlier this year Ford invested $1 billion in startup firm Argo AI. Based in Pittsburgh, the idea is to help Ford it in its quest to launch the company’s first autonomous car by 2021. It seems like I am seeing a lidar-related start-up with 50+ people being acquired every week.

Although Ford remains dedicated to that timeline, Argo CEO Brian Salesky says that goal might be tougher than first thought. Salesky commented, “We’re still very much in the early days of making self-driving cars a reality. Those who think fully self-driving vehicles will be ubiquitous on city streets months from now or even in a few years are not well connected to the state of the art or committed to the safe deployment of the technology. For those of us who have been working on the technology for a long time, we’re going to tell you the issue is still really hard, as the systems are as complex as ever.”

Ford is hoping to introduce a Level 4 autonomous vehicle for ride sharing and package delivery within the next four years. Salesky’s comments seem to indicate that might be a stretch, but only time will tell if Ford will meet its 2021 autonomous goal.

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GM Acquires Lidar Company

General Motors Co recently announced it acquired LIDAR technology company Strobe, Inc. As part of the deal, Strobe’s engineering talent joins GM’s Cruise Automation team to define and develop next-generation LIDAR solutions for self-driving vehicles.

“Strobe’s LIDAR technology will significantly improve the cost and capabilities of our vehicles so that we can more quickly accomplish our mission to deploy driverless vehicles at scale,” said Kyle Vogt, Founder and CEO, Cruise Automation.

“The successful deployment of self-driving vehicles will be highly dependent on the availability of LIDAR sensors,” said Julie Schoenfeld, Founder and CEO, Strobe, Inc. “Strobe’s deep engineering talent and technology backed by numerous patents will play a significant role in helping GM and Cruise bring these vehicles to market sooner than many think.”

Last month, Cruise Automation revealed the world’s first mass-producible car designed with the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver. The vehicle will join Cruise’s testing fleets in San Francisco, metropolitan Phoenix and Detroit.

Strobe has an excellent comparison of first generation lidar sensors vs. the next generation needed to support autonomous vehicles on their website.


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Velodyne Quadruples Production

While many of the autonomous vehicle, lidar start-ups are still in the R&D stage Velodyne is delivering on its promise to significantly ramp up production of their proven lidar sensor technology.

“Velodyne leads the market in real-time 3D LiDAR systems for fully autonomous vehicles,” said David Hall, Velodyne LiDAR Founder and CEO. “With the tremendous surge in autonomous vehicle orders and new installations across the last 12 months, we scaled capacity to meet this demand, including a significant increase in production from our 200,000 square-foot Megafactory.”

Velodyne invented and patented the world’s first 3D real-time LiDAR sensor for autonomous vehicles. Over the last ten years, Velodyne sensors have been installed in thousands of vehicles around the world, traveling millions of real-world miles. Velodyne is the industry standard for localization and environmental perception, providing the core technology for dozens of autonomous vehicle programs in over 10 countries.

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Waymo Seeking $1 Billion

Here’s the latest update on the Waymo vs. Uber lidar lawsuit as reported by Joe Mullin:

The lawsuit began in February, when Waymo accused Anthony Levandowski, the chief of Uber’s self-driving car project, of stealing more than 14,000 files shortly before he resigned from Google. Levandowski, who is not a defendant in the case, has pleaded the Fifth Amendment and avoided answering questions about the accusations. Uber denies that any secrets ended up on the company’s servers and says its lidar technology was built independently.

Waymo insists that its trade secrets are in fact being used by Uber. Earlier this week, Waymo filed a motion seeking to force Uber to produce its lidar source code so that Waymo lawyers could scour it and compare it to Waymo’s code. The judge overseeing the case hasn’t ruled on that motion. The case is currently scheduled for trial in December.

Waymo lawyers have stated in court that they intend to seek up to $1.86 billion if a trial takes place. Still, the reported $1 billion settlement demand contrasts with Waymo’s public statements about the case, which have downplayed the money at stake. Waymo has emphasized that it simply wants Uber to stop using its trade secrets. A Waymo attorney made that point again to Reuters, saying that “Waymo had one goal: to stop Uber from using its trade secrets.”

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Feature Extraction Webinar

Certainty 3D is hosting a free webinar on Wednesday October 25 from 11 to 11:30 EDT. The focus will be on the upcoming release of TopoDOT 10.6. Features include vertical and encroachment clearance tools as well as the official release of TopoDOT for Esri.

TopoDOT is becoming the go to solution for a number of feature extraction applications. Be sure to take a look.

You can register here.

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USIBD Cornerstone Report No. 10 Released

The U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) is pleased to announce the publication of the tenth Cornerstone Report, focused on Software, and how the industry perceives the leading products – now as compared to three years ago – the last time they surveyed on software for a Cornerstone Report.

According to John Russo, USIBD President, “This survey revealed some exciting trends in the adoption of Building Documentation technologies. You will learn whether the current software offering is meeting the needs of the industry. In addition, you will find answers to questions asking whether we are satisfied with the current state of interoperability of software, and who among us is really qualified to operate the software. Respondents also indicated their preference for the value of both software maintenance and the big question of whether to “rent” or “own.”

Certainly worth a look and thanks to the USIBD and all involved.



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Full Waveform Topo-Bathy Survey

A cutting edge full waveform topo-bathy survey is taking place in Sweden to better understand lake carbon cycling.

The study is a part of an ongoing project aiming to establish a reference area in Sweden for detailed studies that can link the understanding at ecosystem level to landscape scale as well as assess the feedback of aquatic carbon cycling to climate change. Cristian Gudasz, researcher at the Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC) at Umeå University in Sweden, is leading the work and has initiated collaborations with Dimitri Lague, Head of Dynamics, Imagery and Modeling of Environmental Systems and Scientific manager of the Nantes-Rennes Topo-bathy LiDAR platform at the University of Rennes in France.

This type of large-scale LiDAR survey has only been attempted once before, in Alaska in 2014. The survey planned in the Abisko area will be the first of its kind on the European continent. The instrument used is the Optech Titan LiDAR system.


Posted in 3D Modeling, airborne LiDAR, Full waveform, Mapping, Research | Leave a comment

Spotted Owl Habitat

A classic problem for forest managers has been protecting the habitat for the spotted owl while reducing the fire potential of those forests. A recent lidar survey provided key insights, including tree height and canopy density on how to solve the problem.

The authors also used a data set collected by wildlife researchers spanning more than two decades that recorded the positions of 316 owl nests in three national forests and Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

They found the owls seek out forests with unusually high concentrations of tall trees measuring at least 105 feet tall but preferably taller than 157 feet. These tall trees also tended to be areas with high levels of canopy cover. However, the owls appeared to be indifferent to areas with dense canopy cover from medium-height trees and avoided areas with high cover in short (less than 52 feet tall) trees.

“This could fundamentally resolve the management problem because it would allow for reducing small tree density, through fire and thinning,” said lead author Malcolm North, a research forest ecologist with UC Davis’ John Muir Institute of the Environment and the USDA Pacific Southwest Research Station. “We’ve been losing the large trees, particularly in these extreme wildfire and high drought-mortality events. This is a way to protect more large tree habitat, which is what the owls want, in a way that makes the forest more resilient to these increasing stressors that are becoming more intense with climate change.”

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Underwater Laser Scanning

What began in 2015 as an environmental research project has resulted in an amazing, ancillary discovery of some 60 ancient  shipwrecks, including some types of vessels that have never been seen except in murals and paintings.

According to a press release, the team set out to use remote operated vehicles’ laser scanners to map the floor of the Black Sea off Bulgaria to learn more about the changing environment of the region and fluctuations in sea level since the last glacier cycle.

Last year, they found 44 ancient vessels during their survey representing 2,500 years of history. “The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys,” Jon Adams, principle investigator and director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology, said at the time.

This is now one of the finest underwater museums of ships and seafaring in the world.

The Black Sea MAP project was conceived by Hans K Rausing who established the Expedition and Education Foundation to commission the project. The Foundation’s work is funded by The Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, a charitable fund, reflecting their interest in improving our understanding of the origins of humanity and human civilization in the region.


Posted in 3D Modeling, cultural heritage | 1 Comment

Lidar Data Webinar

LizardTech, a leader in data compression is offering a free webinar on October 5 at 1 PM EDT that will focus on lidar data management and sharing across an enterprise.

Attend the webinar to learn how to:

• Compress your point clouds losslessly to MrSID or LAZ to save on storage and increase portability
• Share your data across your enterprise and with your customers using Express Server
• Expose your LiDAR data to your users in multiple formats with Express Zip

You can register here.

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