Ford’s Argo AI Acquires Princeton Lightwave

Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) Argo AI unit, which develops software for self-driving vehicles, is buying Princeton Lightwave in a move that will certainly strengthen the team’s intellectual property, particularly when it comes to Geiger-mode lidar. It will be very interesting to see how this technology will be leveraged in the autonomous vehicle market.

Announcing the Princeton Lightwave acquisition in a blog post on Friday morning, Argo Chief Executive Officer Bryan Salesky said his company “won’t be able to build” self-driving cars without lidar.

The deal comes more than a year after Ford’s $75 million investment in Velodyne, a better-known lidar startup whose sensor technology is still considered too expensive.

Founded in 2000, New Jersey-based Princeton Lightwave is one of more than 20 global manufacturers of lidar.


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Mapping Escape Routes

Researchers at the U.S. Forest Service and University of Utah are working together to utilize lidar to help firefighters plan escape routes from wildland fires.

“What we’re doing is using lidar to map the most efficient routes to safety for wildland firefighters,” said Mickey Campbell at the University of Utah, who is working on this research which he describes as almost like a Google Maps for firefighters.

“What we’re doing is mapping three different different landscape conditions on the ground. The first being the slope of the terrain. The second being the density of the vegetation and the third being kind of the roughness of the ground’s surface,” he said.

Using lidar they map these variables and based on their understanding the degree to which these variables slow someone down they can determine the most efficient route to safety from any location. Eventually this would be an app on a phone or GPS.

Of course the lidar data must be available for the area in question. Just another justification for supporting 3DEP.

Posted in 3D Modeling, airborne LiDAR, Forestry, Mapping | Leave a comment

Impact of Lidar Pulse Density on Estimating Biomass

Airborne lidar is well-suited for mapping many forest attributes, including aboveground biomass (AGB) stocks and changes in selective logging in tropical forests. However, trade-offs still exist between lidar pulse density and accuracy of AGB estimates.

This team of researchers assessed the impacts of lidar pulse density on the estimation of AGB stocks and changes using airborne lidar and field plot data in a selectively logged tropical forest located near Paragominas, Pará, Brazil.

We found that AGB change estimates at the plot level were only slightly affected by pulse density. However, at the landscape level we observed differences in estimated AGB change of >20 Mg·ha−1 when pulse density decreased from 12 to 0.2 pulses·m−2.

The results suggest that AGB change can be monitored in selective logging in tropical forests with reasonable accuracy and low cost with low pulse density lidar surveys if a baseline high-quality DTM is available from at least one lidar survey. We recommend the results of this study to be considered in developing projects and national level MRV systems for REDD+ emission reduction programs for tropical forests.


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Velodyne Sponsors AutoDrive Challenge

Velodyne LiDAR is sponsoring SAE International’s AutoDrive Challenge, providing VLP-16 LiDAR Pucks and technical support to student teams for the three-year program. (PRNewsfoto/Velodyne LiDAR Inc.)

In what is reminiscent of its start in the DARPA Challenge, Velodyne LiDAR Inc., the world leader in 3D vision systems for autonomous vehicles, today announced that it is a sponsor and core technology provider for LiDAR sensors for SAE International’s AutoDrive Challenge™.

The AutoDrive Challenge™ is a three-year program that challenges student engineering teams from elite university programs to test autonomous technologies and develop Level 4 autonomous vehicles. Each year of the program, SAE will host a competition among participating student groups, culminating in a final competition that tasks the vehicles with navigating an urban driving course.

Velodyne is providing up to two VLP-16 Puck sensors to each student team, along with technical support from engineers. The VLP-16 is an advanced 3D LiDAR sensor with low power consumption and a small form factor that can be easily integrated into autonomous vehicles. LiDAR is acknowledged as an important sensing technology for autonomous vehicles and advanced safety systems, so it will be key in helping student teams field competitive vehicles.

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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.



Posted in Orgs, Software, The Industry | Leave a comment