Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) provides the type of velocity data (only if FMCW) about objects and vehicles that are necessary to enable the type of decision-making necessary for navigation systems in autonomous vehicles. However, most LiDAR sensors that have been used in automotive and other mobility applications have been fragile, expensive and unreliable. Omnitron Sensors Co-founder and CEO Eric Aguilar has developed a MEMS scanning mirror LiDAR for autonomous vehicles, based on his experience working with LiDAR in a variety of past roles with some of the world’s largest technology providers and manufacturers.
From an article in Tech Briefs by Woodrow Bellamy III.
“I first discovered this when I made the jump from core sensor development to integrator. Initially, I worked with LiDAR at Wing, a Google X program for autonomous delivery drones. At Tesla, I led the firmware integration team that took Model 3 from prototype to production. As I moved on to Argo AI, Ford and Volkswagen’s former robotaxi business, I continued to grapple with LiDAR-related issues,” wrote in a May 2023 opinion article for Electronic Engineering Times, discussing his experience working with LiDAR in the past.
Aguilar’s company has developed a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) scanning mirror that has the potential to disrupt and outperform older optical subsystems — such as voice coils, spinning polygons and galvos — and meet the demanding requirements of LiDAR for autonomous vehicles with the type of manufacturability and scalability the automotive industry needs.
Leveraging the collective team’s extensive experience designing, fabricating, and using MEMS sensors, Omnitron has also developed a “new topology for MEMS” that addresses some of the “most pressing pain points in MEMS manufacturing,” according to the company’s website.
Featuring a unique arrangement of silicon process steps and a new packaging method, Omnitron is now proving that its topology can produce low-cost MEMS sensors in high volumes by partnering with a commercial MEMS foundry. The company’s first proof point of its new topology for MEMS is a large, robust, low-cost, MEMS scanning mirror for long-range LiDAR. In September, Omnitron announced it would start working with Silex Microsystems—the world’s largest pure-play MEMS foundry—on manufacturing and commercializing its MEMS scanner for LiDAR.
During an interview conducted over Zoom, Aguilar, showed test prototypes of their MEMS scanning mirror that were about the size of a dime. Aguilar discussed his company’s progress with their MEMS scanning mirror and how it could help eliminate the challenges that has made LiDAR too expensive for automotive applications in recent years.
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