Home Feature Sense Photonics Debuts First Modular LiDAR Unit for Autonomous Drivers at CES 2020

Sense Photonics Debuts First Modular LiDAR Unit for Autonomous Drivers at CES 2020

by Chanel Lee

Six months after exiting stealth mode with a $26 million Series A funding round, Sense Photonics, a Durham-based company dedicated to providing flash light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology for self-driving cars, has announced its official entry into the automotive market with the first modular flash LiDAR unit for advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous drivers.

The startup introduced the camera-like unit, called Osprey, during this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Osprey is the second LiDAR-related announcement from Sense Photonics within three months; in October, the company rolled out an industrial-focused solid-state FLASH LiDAR system. 

“The show naturally coincided with our timeline for Osprey’s availability, but we’re pleased we get to capitalize on the thousands of visitors the show attracts each year to the desert,” CEO Scott Burroughs tells Hypepotamus. “There is a great interest in the industry in what our unique FLASH architecture can provide in conjunction with a modular, fully solid-state unit.”

“Osprey introduces the automotive community to a fully solid-state FLASH LiDAR architecture, which we are confident is the future of LiDAR,” continues Burroughs. “Through the elimination of moving parts found in mechanical scanners elsewhere on the marketplace, we’ve increased the standard of reliability expected from LiDAR technology. This ultimately leads to improved safety for people who are trusting their lives to autonomous forms of mobility.” 

Autonomous vehicles and robotic systems use LiDAR technology to navigate their environments. To do this, LiDAR sends out millions of laser pulses per second to survey the car’s surroundings, basically bouncing light off of objects in order to build a three-dimensional visual environment without the use of sight.

Conventional LiDAR technology stitches multiple images together to form a complete visual environment, but Sense Photonics sets itself apart by using a “flash” LiDAR that lights up the car’s entire field of view at once, leading to camera-like images. 

Osprey features a 75-degree vertical field of view that enables high-resolution object detection from the street curb upward. The unit packages an advanced automotive-qualified near-field sensor with Sense Illuminator, a proprietary vertical cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) array made of thousands of individual laser elements.

The emphasis on near-field sensors addresses a major concern within the autonomous automobile space; Burroughs says that Sense Photonics’ customers have expressed excitement about Osprey’s ability to eliminate a car’s blind spots from top to bottom with “unprecedented resolution.”

“Osprey is our first mobility-oriented product, and the first step in offering a full suite of products for specific customer needs,” Burroughs tells Hypepotamus. “We found that decision-makers within the mobility industry have a very strong interest in near-field sensing capabilities but, until now, have not been able to find a suitable solution, so we are pleased Sense Photonics is the first to market with a product that fulfills their needs.” 

Although Sense Photonics designed Osprey for accurate near-field sensing performance with a wide field-of-view, Burroughs says the company plans to develop “products with an emphasis on long-range capabilities and other in-demand performance criteria.”

Sense Photonics’ automotive partners also plan to use Osprey to test and develop the next generation of autonomous platforms, but Burroughs says that the company specifically developed its technology to address the needs of the marketplace for reliable, high-quality performance from camera-like units like Osprey. 

“Our proprietary ownership of the technology within Osprey gives us a great lead in this space, and we will continue to work to improve on our product capabilities through innovation and development,” says Burroughs. 

The units are currently available for pre-order for $3,200 on Sense Photonics’ website. 


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