Californian startup boosts LiDAR' specs with proprietary InGaAs design: Page 2 of 3

May 30, 2017 //By Julien Happich
Californian startup boosts LiDAR' specs with proprietary InGaAs design
Headquartered in Portola Valley, California, startup Luminar Technologies, Inc. has come out of stealth after five years of secretive research and development exclusively focused on LiDAR technology, betting on InGaAs for its key components.

Discussing the technology, the CTO said: "We don't need an array of lasers, we use a single laser system that was designed from the chip-level up specifically to address and adjust the scan pattern of our single beam. But key to see out 200m and beyond under 10% reflectivity was making the move from 905nm to 1550nm with 40 times the laser power".

Eichenholz describes 1550nm as a very mature technology extensively used in fibre communications and for which there has been a lot of R&D, so there is know-how to reach economical scale.

"The challenge was on the receiver side, it required more effort for the overall system architecture. In order to get millions of points per second and meet our range at low-reflectivity requirements, we realized we had to make the jump to the eye-safe region. InGaAs photodiodes offer a solution where everyone else had written them off as too expensive. We only use one receiver per laser" the CTO revealed.

A roof-top mounted LiDAR unit.

Luminar's LiDAR scans are really impressive and their spatial resolution so fine that they allow for simpler image processing, making it possible to truly determine what's in the field of view and for example, differentiate a child from a traffic column on the side of the road.

In Q4, the company will start volume production of its next generation system with a 10,000 unit pilot run in its 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Orlando. "Now and in the future, our production is fully vertically integrated in the USA" stated the CTO.

So how will Luminar compete on price or how will it position itself on the market?

"What happened over the last decades was that in order to meet the cost target of the automotive industry, the performance of LiDAR was proportionally reduced to get the volume and price down. But the price race to the bottom is the wrong race" reacted Eichenholz.

"We aim our products at level 4/5 autonomous vehicles and we aim to provide the highest quality data, so we will not race to the bottom. We are already shipping systems to AV partners and we are meeting their price requirements. They are comfortable with our trajectory for cost. Our LiDAR is already at test facilities and our partners get a level of resolution they never thought was possible".

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