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Osram and Vergence Automation develop new Lidar and 4D camera for autonomous vehicles

Osram, a leading global lighting and semiconductor manufacturer, has expanded into pulse infrared lasers for autonomous LIDAR use and is working with with Vergence Automation for advanced imaging technology.

The pace of autonomous vehicle development is driving new opportunities for established auto suppliers to expand their technology portfolios. Recently Osram, widely known as a global lighting and semiconductor manufacturer, announced it is working with Minnesota-based start-up Vergence Automation on advanced imaging technology including pulse-infrared lasers and 4D cameras for use in on-board sensor systems.

Lidar sensors are an integral part of SAE Level 4 and 5 autonomous systems. While radar provides initial detection of objects at farther distances, lidar provides greater detail for imaging at a closer range. Osram has developed a four-channel laser with individually controllable diodes on an 8  x 11-mm module. This small device can be surface-mounted, reducing assembly costs and laser alignment tuning requirements.

“Every OEM is experimenting to figure out how to increase their operational design domain and how to increase their development speed based on what sensing technology that is mature and can be produced,” said Rajeev Thakur, Product Marketing Manager at Osram Opto Semiconductors. The company has improved the laser diodes to emit a wavelength of 905 nanometers (nm). This delivers a maximum optical output of 85 W at 30 A, an increase of approximately 10 W.

The pulse length has also been reduced from 20 nanoseconds (ns) down to 5 ns. With a duty cycle of 0.01% and a short pulse length, the company has ensured that eye safety standards are met despite the high output of the lasers.

Osram's collaboration with Vergence Automation aims to leverage both companies' technologies into new integrated imaging solutions. Just as lidar improves upon radar’s object detection at closer ranges, cameras provide the highest resolution for imaging directly around the vehicle. Vergence has utilized Osram’s 850-nm lighting components to create a patented camera solution, called 4D. The system removes shadows and bright spots to create an image impervious to any external light conditions.

“We want to change the way navigation is done, from a map, GPS and sometimes sensor model to a sensor infrastructure with maps,” Vergence co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jamie Retterath told Automotive Engineering. “In order to do that, you need to drive innovation in all of these areas.”

The company believes that their new 4D camera technology provides a safer option for all roads rather than just heavily populated ones. The image provided by the camera allows for more input information and less reliance on software by the vehicle. The current 1.3 MP camera has a resolution down to 0.02° at 80 m, creating 6.5 million 3D points/second. 

Vergence plans to have a 2.1 MP camera with 0.012° resolution at 100 m, creating 125 million 3D points/second available by 2020.

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