While Google uses LiDAR for project X, its new self-driving vehicle, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, refuses to integrate the technology into its new electric model and judges LiDAR as “ineffective” in this context.

However, on May 7 at Willison, Florida, a driver of a 2015 Tesla S died in a car crash involving a truck while he was using the autopilot function of the vehicle. According to the investigation, the cameras used by Tesla to detect obstacles have not managed to analyze the shape of the truck as the vehicle was traveling against the sunset.

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Stefan Sommer, CEO of the German company ZF Friedrichshafen later told in a press conference on July 6 that “autopilot cars need LiDAR to be safe”. He also explained that using only visual signals were not enough for self-driving cars to be safe at high speed.

Indeed, LiDAR can detect contours and obstacles contrasts, especially when there isn’t enough light. A thing that cameras can’t do effectively.

Also according to Sommer, “self-driving cars need 3 technologies: images captured by cameras, a short and long-range radar, and a LiDAR scanner.” He then added that LiDAR remains expensive, but by letting manufacturers invest in the technology it will soon become more accessible.

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Thus, through the use of a Velodyne HDL-64 E LiDAR scanner, Google self-driving cars can detect objects and distances up to 120 meters. This laser can detect objects and distances up to 120 meters. It can also scan at 360 ° and pick up more than 2.2 million points per second, calling it the most sensitive scanner on the market. In addition, by sticking it on top of the vehicle’s roof, engineers have made it more efficient, avoiding the view to be obstructed. Then they added a radar with a range of 200 meters to the rear bumper so that the vehicle can analyze the speed of vehicles surrounding it.

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With all these tools integrated to the car, an internal software collects up to 1 GB of data per second and generates a digital mapping model representing the position of the vehicle in real time.

Until today, Google self-driving cars have conducted tests by driving more than 1.5 million miles over the US without facing any issue.

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