Insight LiDAR launches FMCW chip-scale lidar for autonomous vehicles

Jan. 24, 2019
Insight Digital Coherent LiDAR is based on FMCW technology with advantages over current-generation ToF lidar sensors.

Insight LiDAR (Lafayette, CO) announced the development of Digital Coherent LiDAR, a chip-scale, long-range lidar sensor targeted at the emerging autonomous vehicle market. Insight's Digital Coherent LiDAR is based on Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology with advantages over the current generation of Time-of-Flight (ToF) lidar sensors. Insight LiDAR is a spinout of Insight Photonic Solutions, a leader in the design and manufacture of highly linear, swept-wavelength laser sources for imaging and sensing applications.

Insight's Digital Coherent LiDAR was developed based on more sensitive FMCW detection techniques and software-programmable waveforms that have been used in FMCW radar for over 40 years. Insight LiDAR's FMCW sensor offers 10-100x higher sensitivity than Time-of-Flight lidar while simultaneously offering direct Doppler velocity measurement. The higher sensitivity, enabled by FMCW detection, drives Digital Coherent LiDAR's long-range capability; 200 m to dim (< 10% reflectivity) objects like car tires, and 250 m or more to vehicle bodies, trees, and other obstacles.

Direct Doppler velocity measurement enables much faster recognition and classification of objects, especially critical for safe level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicle operation. Digital Coherent LiDAR is further enhanced by Insight's proprietary solid-state, fast-axis scan architecture. This unique feature enables Insight LiDAR to both precisely steer the beam and encrypt the critical fast-scan axis through software alone, with no moving parts.

"It's an interesting time in this market," said Michael Minneman, CEO of Insight Photonic Solutions. "Level 4 and 5 autonomy needs a level of performance, range, resolution, frame rate, and immunity that legacy ToF sensors just can't deliver. Couple that to cost goals that can only be met with a true all-semiconductor solution and you see the challenge. We have the huge advantage that we've been designing and manufacturing the core technology in this FMCW LiDAR sensor for more than 10 years."

"LiDAR designers have long known the advantages of FMCW detection, but the critical laser sources have been large and expensive," added Chris Wood, head of Insight LiDAR's development and technology. "Over the past ten years, we've developed and refined unique, patented methods to manufacture and control the laser sources driving world-class performance in a tiny chip-scale package."

Key features of the Insight system include a long range of 200 m to 10% R targets at full scan speed with no averaging or processing; direct Doppler velocity in every pixel; complete immunity from sunlight and other lidar; solid-state, flexible fast-axis scanning; ultrahigh resolution to 0.02 x 0.02 deg; low-cost chip scale, all-semiconductor approach.

Insight LiDAR, launched in 2016, licensed key technologies of Insight Photonic Solutions, based in Boulder, CO and expanded and adapted theses to autonomous vehicle lidar.

SOURCE: Insight Lidar;

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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