3D Lidar generates environmental model from time-of-flight measurement

By Christoph Hammerschmidt

A basic requirement for sophisticated advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving is the ability to reliably perceive vehicle surroundings and evaluate them accurately and on-the-fly. Automotive electronica supplier Continental AG is working on the next generation of an environment model that will deliver a seamless 360-degree view of the entire vehicle’s surroundings. To allow automated vehicles to assume control from drivers, the vehicle must continuously acquire, process, and interpret data, while also acquiring and building up contextual knowledge. In such a context, Lidar systems are playing a pivotal role. Since such systems are known to be rather costly, many companies are currently seeking for ways to develop cost-effective Lidar systems. At the CES in Las Vegas, Continental showed its High-Resolution 3D Flash Lidar system that meets the automotive requirements of high reliability and cost-effectiveness in that it does not need any moving parts.

The omission of any moving parts makes the 3D Flash Lidar 
sensor sturdy and at the same time cost-effective

Unlike today’s scanning Lidar sensors, Continental’s 3D Flash Lidar utilizes a pulsed laser source that works much like the flash of a photographic camera. The associated sensor circuitry measures not only the intensity of reflected pulses in a 2D pixel array (like in a photo camera), but in addition it measures the time-of-flight of the light reflected und thus can generate a three-dimensional, spatial environment model with an accuracy of a few centimeters. It “sees” any objects at distances up to 200 meters; with a flash duration of 1.32 microseconds it can update its environmental model 30 times per second. “The low complexity and high industrial feasibility mean that we can efficiently install multiple sensors all around the vehicle, thereby enabling us to generate complete, real-time, 360 degrees images of the vehicle surrounding,” explained Arnaud Lagandré, Head of Continental’s High Resolution 3D Flash LIDAR segment. 

The environmental model is a software layer between the various sensors of the vehicle and automated driving applications. All these data are processed in Continental’s Assisted & Automated Driving Control Unit, a kind of central instance in the vehicle for the implementation of a functional safety architecture and driving functions.

Both the 3D Lidar and the Driving Control unit will be ready for series production in 2019, Continental said.  

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