Learn why this revolutionary technology gives the Aurora Driver a significant advantage, especially when it comes to trucking.
Developing the Aurora Driver safely for trucks requires that our perception system detect and track objects farther, faster, and with greater precision than ever before. Last year, we acquired Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) lidar, the game-changing technology that makes this possible.
For context, self-driving systems have traditionally been outfitted with AM lidar. AM lidar works by emitting brief light pulses at a fixed frequency. We can determine the location of objects based on how long it takes for those laser pulses to bounce off surfaces and return to the sensor. The farther away an object is, the longer it takes for the light to return.
In contrast, FMCW lidar sends out a constant stream of light (“continuous-wave”) and changes the frequency of that light at regular intervals (“frequency-modulated”). This allows us to both determine the location of objects and precisely measure their velocity using the Doppler effect.
FMCW lidar provides substantial advantages over even the most advanced AM lidar systems available today, especially when it comes to long-haul trucking. Read on to learn how FMCW lidar will help us deliver the Aurora Driver safely, quickly, and broadly.
FMCW lidar sees farther
Our FMCW lidar sensors already give us significantly better range performance when compared to typical AM lidar systems, allowing the Aurora Driver to see well beyond 300 meters even on targets that don’t reflect much light (think joggers in dark clothing). FMCW lidar is so powerful because the sensors are single photon sensitive, meaning they can detect the smallest amount of light possible. Aurora’s FMCW lidar also operates around the 1550nm wavelength band, allowing the sensors to broadcast stronger light pulses while still meeting eye safety standards. In contrast, other lidar systems are often not single photon sensitive and operate near the 900nm wavelength band, requiring them to limit their light output for eye safety reasons.
Why it matters
When the Aurora Driver sees farther, it has more time to react to unexpected obstacles. Even fractions of a second can make a huge difference in safety and comfort, especially with heavy vehicles driving at highway speeds.