Doppler Lidar – Is This the Better Approach?

Blackmore is promoting the use of Doppler lidar as a better sensor for the autonomous vehicle industry.

Data Captured with Blackmore Doppler Lidar

Blackmore Doppler Lidar

The typical example of the Doppler effect in the real world is the apparent change in frequency of a train as it approaches and then passes by. In the case of Blackmore’s Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave – FMCW Doppler lidar technology which is targeted for the autonomous vehicle market the end result is that all the information, including location and velocity of every point is collected in a single pulse and processed using the Doppler effect.

It would certainly seem that knowing the velocity of objects in the path of an autonomous vehicle would be of value in determining items that the vehicle should care about, but it is interesting that Blackmore seems to be one of two companies (The other is Aeva who thinks they can eliminate the need for radar)  pursuing this technology.

Blackmore's Doppler lidar reads the velocity of the objects it detects: The things moving away from the vehicle are in red, those moving toward it are in blue.

Blackmore’s Doppler lidar reads the velocity of the objects it detects: The things moving away from the vehicle are in red, those moving toward it are in blue.

The Blackmore Doppler lidar sensor is solid state and according to the manufacturer their continuous wave light is better suited to the use of integrated photonics for beamsteering than short energetic laser pulses. This is allowing Blackmore’s lidar engine to mass manufacture completely solid state sensors.

In addition, Blackmore’s Doppler lidar does not waste photons. It leverages “coherent Detection” to make measurements with single-photon sensitivity. This helps the sensors to see through rain, snow and dust.

Finally, Blackmore’s systems have dynamic range which means the sensors are able to see both bright (street signs and tail lights) and dark objects (tires and asphalt pavement) equally as well.

Alex Davies of Wired points out that a deficiency of the technology is the inability of  the Blackmore sensor to detect items moving exactly perpendicular to the projected beam. Practically speaking given the multi-directional nature of the laser beams this does not seem to a likely scenario.

For more information on Blackmore click here.

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