Blackmore launches 450 m Doppler lidar for autonomous vehicle fleets

Jan. 11, 2019
As lidar use becomes more prevalent, interference-prone AM systems are less effective and unsafe.

Doppler lidar manufacturer Blackmore Sensors and Analytics (Bozeman, MT)announced two new interference-free lidar product lines. The Blackmore Autonomous Fleet Doppler Lidar (AFDL) is a Doppler lidar system specifically designed for autonomous fleet deployment. And the flexible Blackmore Lidar Development Platform (LDP) is a development platform for early deployment into emerging autonomous markets.

Blackmore says that despite the more than $1 billion invested in the lidar space since 2015, it's increasingly difficult for end-users to identify a solution that delivers as promised. This is because the majority of lidar vendors focus on using amplitude modulation (AM) pulse-based lidar technologies. As a result, OEMs and suppliers are struggling with the inadequate data created by these power-hungry AM lidar sensors. And as lidar use becomes more prevalent, interference-prone AM systems are less effective and unsafe.

To address this, in 2015 Blackmore introduced the world’s first frequency-modulation (FM) lidar systems for autonomous vehicles, which measure both range and velocity simultaneously. For context, chipset-driven industries--including cell phones, automotive radars and GPS systems--also migrated from AM to FM modulation in order to deliver interference-free data at long range, using less power. "The reality is that physics ultimately wins, no matter how much funding chases inferior alternatives," said Randy Reibel, CEO and co-founder of Blackmore. "But more importantly, FM-based Doppler lidar sensors are safer for self-driving applications."

Blackmore's team has spent more than 10 years refining FM techniques and has been shipping high-performance lidar systems that are easy to use for automotive applications since 2017. Its AFDL resolves the challenges that stymied AM lidar. As a result, fleets will see a dramatic increase in reliability and lower operating costs by reducing time-to-perception and data-annotation overhead.

Specifically, the multi-beam Doppler lidar sensor delivers instantaneous velocity and range data beyond 450 m, with power consumption and size similar to a small laptop. The system supports a 120 x 30-degree field of view, software-defined operation, precise velocity measurements with accuracy down to 0.1 m/s on objects moving up to 150 m/s (335 mph), and measurement rates in excess of 2.4 million points/second. Blackmore’s AFDL is available for pre-order and will ship to customers in Q2 for less than $20,000.

From air taxis and long-haul trucking to airport operations and industrial warehouse robotics, Blackmore is now shipping its LDP, which pairs Blackmore's lidar engine with interchangeable optical sensor heads to make it easy for companies to explore, test, and adapt Doppler lidar for their specific needs. "Development partners want to be part of the design process, and this new lidar platform helps our customers efficiently hone their spec requests and better understand the advantages that Doppler lidar brings to their applications," said Jim Curry, co-founder and VP of analytics at Blackmore.

Because Blackmore uses software-defined lidar data, customers can tailor the operational parameters--including field of view, range, point density and scan speed--on the fly with its flexible system. The long-range forward-look optical head covers a 40 x 40-degree field of view, provides two beams to increase point throughput to greater than 1.2 million points/second, and can reach out well beyond 500 m of range extent. Additional sensor heads will be introduced over time, and prices will vary depending upon configuration.

SOURCE: Blackmore;

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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