A recent study from the University of Warwick demonstrated how heavy rain could affect LiDAR in automotive vehicles, but the claim that this is problematic is blown out of proportion. What sensing technologies can be used in vehicles, what did the researchers discover, and why is it not important?
From an article in Electropages by Robin Mitchell.
What sensing technologies exist for automotive vehicles?
As discussed in previous articles, there are no self-driving systems to date that provide users with a real autonomous experience. The best systems currently deployed (such as in Tesla vehicles), provide a basic type of autonomous driving where the driver is still required to have their hands on the wheel and having their full attention to the road (this is a Level 2 autonomous vehicle).
For self-driving vehicles to function, they are required to observe their environment, recognise objects, and make decisions based on what those objects are and what they are doing. For example, a cars object detection system could be extremely accurate, but such a system is pointless if the car brakes every time a leaf in the wind passes by.
Choosing a sensor technology for such an application can be difficult as each technology type has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, LiDAR is a laser ranging technology that can produce a 2D image map of its surroundings, and each pixel in the image refers to a distance measurement. Therefore, LiDAR can be used to determine the distance of objects as well as their outlines.
RADAR is another technology that can be used to determine the distance of objects. While it cannot determine the outline of objects accurately (depending on the wavelength used), it has an incredibly long range with great penetrating power against fog and snow.
Ultrasonic ranging is another technology that can be used. The short-range of ultrasonic makes it ideal for accurate positioning between close objects (such as parking), but it cannot be used over distances of more than a meter.
It is clear that many technologies are capable of mapping their surrounding environment, but which one should an engineer deploy? While some may believe that technologies such as RADAR are ineffective (Elon Musk), the answer is that any self-driving system should deploy all technologies simultaneously. Considering that each technology does not interfere with each other and that each one can operate in different conditions, a self-driving system should deploy all technologies to determine if objects have been missed. Furthermore, the combination of all technologies allows for the vehicle to operate in multiple conditions and have access to backup systems that can take over should one ranging system fail.
For the complete article on the impact of heavy rain CLICK HERE.
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