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self driving cars

The debate around LiDAR: the future of self-driving cars or “a fool’s errand”?

There are always two sides to a coin, and this is no exception to scientists’ and engineers’ opposite opinions about lidar technology in cars. There is a debate on the role of lidar in autonomous driving as some believe it is unparallel while others consider it “a shortcut to a dead-end”. Let’s dive into the insights of this ongoing debate. 

LiDar technology is used by a large number of autonomous vehicles to navigate environments in real-time. This innovation allows mapping the distance between surrounding objects with impressive perception up to 60 meters away. However, LiDar is not the only technology that allows self-driving navigation. 

The rival’s argument

One of its major rivals is Tesla, reason why its creator Elon Musk, describes LiDar as unnecessary and “a fool’s errand”. Many support his argument based on the perception that robots are equally capable of driving only on ambient visible light. Another point is that in terms of cost and space, a camera is smaller and cheaper, although more of them are needed. 

Cons of cameras

Even though cameras have better seeing in terms of resolution and color it also hosts plenty of characteristics that make them tricky when it comes to their use in autonomous driving. Cameras can detect traffic lights and signs but that also means that their visible light is susceptible to issues when faces with fog, rain, or other textures. They are also more sensitive to direct sunlight, sudden light changes, and raindrops. 

LiDar’s advantage

LiDar technology has lots of strengths including its use of near-infrared light and the fact that they generate their light pulses, hence not depending on ambient light. By creating a 3D cloud of points, LiDAR is more effective at judging distances than cameras. It is also resistant to surfaces that are textured, reflective, or textureless.

This debate opens doors to reflection for multiple car manufacturers who are on the verge of creating self-driving technologies. LiDar continues to be highly suitable for this industry despite its significant cost. It is a technology that improves constantly and that day by day is proven to be safe for autonomous vehicle navigation. 

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