Californian startup boosts LiDAR' specs with proprietary InGaAs design

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.

Gathering a team of experts and scientists which according to the company's executives, combine over 700 years of experience in LiDAR systems, the startup now boasts that with four major autonomous vehicle programs selected as strategic partners for early testing, two acquisitions and $36M in seed funding, it will be ready to produce and ship a first pilot run of 10,000 InGaAs LiDARs this year.

The five-year old company's boldest claim is that by using a proprietary InGaAs receiver cell operating at the eye-safe 1550nm wavelength, it is able to operate its LiDAR at a power 40x higher than silicon-based systems operating at the 905nm wavelength while remaining eye-safe.

As it likes to summarize in its specification sheets, "for every one photon a 905nm LiDAR system can safely emit, Luminar’s 1550nm LiDAR can use 68, resulting in 40 times more power, a 50 times greater resolution and 10 times longer range than current state-of-the-art systems".

Although Jason Eichenholz, CTO and co-founder of Luminar remained elusive regarding the actual architecture of the breakthrough InGaAs LiDAR, he shared his views on the industry with eeNews Europe.

"We looked at edge-cases and focused on our customers' needs. What customers want is a 200m range minimum with less than 10% reflectivity. When they operate their self-driving cars, they need to be able to detect hard-to-see, low-reflectivity objects like a black car or a tire on the road. There are no solutions today that provide that range at that level of reflectivity" the CTO said.

"LiDARs on the market list a detection capability at 10% reflectivity in the 30 to 40m range. At highway speed, that gives you less than 1 second of reaction time. Our system sees further out, 200m and beyond" Eichenholz added.

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