Twice as good: new lidar sensor from Ouster

The American tech firm Ouster has released its latest generation lidar sensor, which is anticipated to boost the research and development of autonomous driving vehicles. Due to the new ‘breakthrough’ L3 chip, the REV7 lidar reaches 400 meters — double the distance of its predecessor, the L2.

As one of the leading players in the field of lidar sensors, Ouster is closely watched. The company remained confidential about its latest sensor but officially released the information. Lidar sensors emit invisible lasers to detect objects and generate a 3D view of the surroundings.

New category

As cars move with considerable speed, these sensors need to process the info similarly fast. So the new L3 chip from Ouster is ten times more sensitive than the previous version. It can count 10 trillion photons and calculate 5,2 million points per second. Sounds dazzling, and, indeed, it unlocks a new category for long-range and higher-speed usage.

Ouster also claims that every sensor parameter has been increased and calls it “a giant leap in performance”. The range, for example, has been doubled and is now the longest in its class. But operation under higher temperatures and resistance against vibrations and bumps have also been improved. Finally, and most importantly, all the components are automotive grade.

‘A crutch’

While lidar sensors are crucial to making autonomous driving a reality, they suffer from steep prices, hampering the adoption, while reliability can be cumbersome. Ouster says it has improved the scalability of the chip, which should result in better pricing and high-volume production. Cost should be lowered tenfold if lidars want to become broadly adopted.

One of the strong opponents of LiDAR is one of the strongest defenders of self-driving. CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has removed the laser radars from the entire range of its vehicles claiming that lidars are “a crutch”. However, his camera-based system is limited to 130 km/hour, whereas high-specced cars from German luxury brands can reach up to 200 km/hour equipped with expensive lidars.

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