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Blackmore introduces Doppler Lidar for autonomous fleet deployment

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, Inc., the pioneers behind Doppler lidar for automotive applications, announced two new product lines. The Blackmore AFDL is a Doppler lidar system specifically designed for autonomous fleet deployment. The flexible Blackmore LDP is a development platform for early deployment into emerging autonomous markets such as long-haul trucking and air taxi systems.

The majority of lidar vendors focus on using amplitude modulation (AM) pulse-based lidar technologies. However, says Blackmore, OEMs and suppliers are struggling with the inadequate data created by these power-hungry AM lidar sensors. 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.

Blackmore’s lidar approach uses continuous wave (CW) light instead of short energetic laser pulses. CW approaches are much better suited to the use of integrated photonics for solid-state beamsteering. That’s why Blackmore has partnered with leading research partners to develop application-specific, solid-state scanners in silicon photonics. The technology pairs with Blackmore’s lidar engine to enable the mass manufacture of completely solid-state lidar sensors.

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. Blackmore continues to propel this advanced technology forward with its two new products.

Blackmore’s Autonomous Fleet Doppler Lidar (AFDL). Blackmore says that its AFDL resolves the challenges that stymied AM lidar. As a result, fleets will see an 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 meters, 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 meters/second 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. Samples are shipping to strategic partners now.

Blackmore’s Lidar Development Platform (LDP). To support expansion into new markets, Blackmore is now shipping its Lidar Development Platform (LDP). The highly flexible platform 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.

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 API. 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 meters of range extent. Additional sensor heads will be introduced over time, and prices will vary depending upon configuration. Blackmore’s LDP is available for order immediately.

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