Self-driving Lidar Wheelchair


Add this to the list of autonomous vehicles – the self-driving wheelchair. It can be summoned with a smart app.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, or SMART, developed and deployed the first unit at Singapore’s Changi General Hospital in September 2016, where it successfully navigated the hospital’s hallways. It is the latest in a string of autonomous vehicles made by SMART, including a golf cart, an electric taxi, and most recently, a scooter that zipped more than 100 MIT visitors around on tours in 2016.

“The SMART self-driving wheelchair has been in development since January 2016,” says Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and a principal investigator in the SMART Future Urban Mobility research group. Today, SMART has two wheelchairs in Singapore and two wheelchairs at MIT being tested in a variety of settings, says Rus.

The robot’s computer uses data from three lidars to make a map. A localization algorithm then determines where the smart chair is on the map. The chair’s six wheels lend stability, and the chair is designed to make tight turns and fit through normal-size doorframes.

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Lidar-guided Robotic Fridge

Imagine walking into your boss’s office to explain that you have a great new idea for a cutting edge, consumer electronics product. When he asks what is you tell him it’s a lidar-guided, robotic refrigerator that can be summoned to deliver cold beer right to your recliner. What?????

In case you think this is a bad April Fools joke, Panasonic unveiled their “Movable Fridge” at the recent IFA show in Berlin, which is Europe’s leading consumer electronics show. It uses LIDAR to map out a person’s living space in delivering its fresh, cool contents to your couch or recliner. Now what respectable man cave can be without one of these?

On a more serious note, Panasonic claims that this idea could be of value to the elderly or handicapped. Click here to see the Movable Fridge in action.

Somehow I think that this is just the start of this use of lidar, especially once we get lost cost, solid state sensors.

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360 Degree Solid State Lidar

There’s another new player in the autonomous vehicle market and they have an  impressive sounding sensor technology. AEye is the first to announce a commercial solid state lidar system capable of 360° coverage and real-time software configurability – key milestones for the delivery of high performance, compact, cost-effective advanced vision systems that enable self-driving vehicles to safely navigate roadways.

AEye develops advanced vision hardware, software and algorithms that act as the eyes and visual cortex of autonomous vehicles. Since the demonstration of its first solid state LiDAR scanner in 2013, AEye has pioneered breakthroughs in intelligent sensing and perception technology. The company is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and backed by world-renowned investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Intel Capital and Airbus Ventures. For more information, please visit

Definitely a company to keep an eye on as the pace of innovation accelerates.

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Velodyne Ramps Up Production

With the idea of becoming the leading lidar sensor supplier to the self driving car market Velodyne is investing in a factory that can produce not thousands, but millions of sensors next year. Think of it as a megafactory that will be fully automated thereby driving down the cost of production and making it difficult for others to compete. The goal is to eliminate the need for factory workers. That’s the plan at least.

To fund this effort, at least in part, Velodyne raised $150 million from China’s Baidu and Ford last year, but what is not entirely clear is what part of the new production is going to be for the new solid state sensors that Velodyne has also announced they are working on. It would seem that the production lines would be very different for mechanical scanners vs. solid state.

In any case Velodyne is betting that their ability to produce huge quantities of sensors is what the major manufacturers are going to be looking for. This article in Forbes provides an  in-depth look at the company and its vision.

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Scanse Update

The Scanse laser scanner kit has been shipping for a few months now. This video demonstrates the fundamental of capturing 3D scans using the Sweep 3D scanner kit. It also gives a basic tutorial on saving and editing data on your computer. You can find out more here:

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USIBD Software Survey Reminder

Time is running out for you to provide your response to the online USIBD software survey. The survey will close Wednesday September 13 at 5 PM PDT.

Click here to take the survey.

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Lidar Technology Bubble?

In this past week alone Israeli startup Innoviz Technologies closed a $65 million funding round with backing from Delphi and Magna, two of the world’s top auto-parts makers and Canada’s LeddarTech raised even more, announcing $101 million in new funds from investors led by Osram. In the meantime Velodyne and Luminar are both investing heavily in R&D as well as manufacturing infrastructure.

It’s all part of the fever pitch race to produce low-cost, solid state lidar (in most cases) sensors that will support autonomous vehicle operation some say by next year.

One has to wonder if all of the investment will “bear fruit,” or this a case of too many dollars chasing what will become a consumer electronics market with slim margins?

Relationships with existing parts suppliers will certainly be a plus to developing a whole product strategy. In the end the lidar sensor will have to be part of a navigation system that would seem to require a high level of systems integration.

And what about flash? Some think this holds the best chance of success.

One thing is certain, lidar is going to be as important to the consumer market as GPS.

We’ll keep an eye on all of this so stay tuned.




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One Year Anniversary for Driverless Bus

Results are in from a year of testing of a self driving bus that did include a driver who could take control if necessary. The test was conducted in South Perth, Australia and was combined with an online survey. French company Nayva is the manufacturer.

More freedom, being able to use the travel time to do other things and fewer crashes were the most commonly reported benefits. Not being able to manually override the vehicle, cyber security threats and the accountability following a crash were the most commonly cited concerns.

Three in five thought the government should be investing to ensure roads are ready for autonomous vehicles by 2025 and just over half believed vehicle manufacturers and industry should be leading the way. Only one in five said they were confident that the government will be ready in this timeframe.

The autonomous bus – which can reach speeds of 45km per hour, but averages at around 25km per hour – is fully electric and uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR), stereovision cameras, GPS, odometry and autonomous emergency braking to detect and avoid obstacles and maintain its course.


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Autonomous Pizza Delivery

Dominos has been experimenting with autonomous pizza delivery vehicles for a couple of years. To date they have been in the form of a small robotic pizza warming oven on wheels. They are now stepping up their game with the use of a self-driving Ford Fusion that may be tested marketed in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The vehicle will operate in a fully autonomous mode, but their will be a driver hidden by heavily tinted glass.

Dominos will be looking to answer the question of whether consumers will be willing to come outside to accept delivery of their pizza. Their also interested in seeing how customers react to the sensors on the vehicle including what looks like multiple Velodyne lidar units.

I can see this working in Florida, but I don’t know about Michigan.

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USIBD Software Survey

The U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) is pleased to announce the opening of an online survey to support their tenth Cornerstone Report (CSR) which is focused on Software as it pertains to the Building Documentation industry.

This subject was first surveyed in CSR003, published in April of 2014. The results of this survey, CSR010, will be analyzed and compared to the results of CSR003. A report will be produced that will analyze the trend between the past 3 years, as well as a prediction on future shifts in the state of software.

The survey applies to all those who are associated with the documenting of existing buildings. Those of you who contribute to this survey are eligible to receive a copy of the Cornerstone Report, whether you are a member of the USIBD or not. Please find the directions at the end of the survey to sign up to receive the report.

Click here to take the survey.

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