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New Lidar system could make driverless cars a more affordable reality

File picture: Buyacar.co.uk via Newspress.

File picture: Buyacar.co.uk via Newspress.

Published Nov 17, 2020

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SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - Velodyne Lidar is hoping to make self-driving cars a more affordable prospect with a cheaper and simpler lidar unit that it hopes to introduce soon

The company said that it’s hoping to introduce the new lidar unit, a key sensor in self-driving cars, with a target price point of less than $500 (R7700) and no moving parts.

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Velodyne is one of several companies vying to supply car companies with lidar, a sensor that generates a three-dimensional map of the road ahead. Velodyne was an early entrant into the market, and its units have powered research operations for many carmakers.

Some of those early research units were bulky, contained many moving parts and cost well above $10 000 (R154 000). For mass production in passenger vehicles, carmakers and their major suppliers seek units that are sleek enough to fit into attractive car designs and cost well below $1000.

The autonomous vehicle technology company said the Velarray H800 will have a target price of less than $500. In an interview with Reuters, Velodyne Chief Executive Anand Gopalan said the company is working with contract manufacturing partner Fabrinet to assemble test devices and that mass production will happen at a Fabrinet factory in Thailand.

Velodyne expects automotive-grade mass manufacturing to be under way by the second half of 2021 and that the devices could show up in vehicles in 2022 or 2023, Gopalan told Reuters.

"We have clear line of sight into being able to hit those costs today," he said of the sub-$500 price point.

The company said the unit will have no moving parts - known as "solid state" in the industry - and will be small enough to fit behind the windshield of a car. It said the sensor can be used for self-driving vehicles or existing driver-assistance features such as emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance.

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IOL & Reuters

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