Volvo, Luminar Demo Advanced Lidar Tech

Volvo Car Corp. and Silicon Valley-based startup Luminar Technologies Inc. have unveiled a lidar sensor with 10 times the range and 50 times the resolution of current devices.

Luminar says the new technology, dubbed “pose estimation,” for the first time enables a lidar system to determine a person’s arm and leg position and movement, thereby helping self-driving cars better predict the behavior of nearby pedestrians. The system can even recognize if a target is using a cell phone, which would alert the vehicle to operate more cautiously.

Volvo and Luminar demonstrated the advanced lidar system this week at the Los Angeles auto show. The patented system, which detects objects with pulsed laser signals, uses receivers made out of indium gallium arsenide instead of silicon. InGaAs devices operate on a much shorter wavelength and are more efficient at capturing light, expanding the sensor’s range to 250 meters (820 feet).

Luminar says the new lidar technology will be ready for production applications by 2021. That’s the same time Volvo plans to introduce the next-generation XC90 crossover vehicle with Level 4 autonomous driving capability.

Volvo, which expects about one-third of its new vehicles sold in 2025 will be capable of fully autonomous driving, made a “significant” investment in Luminar this summer. The carmaker unveiled its self-driving 360c futuristic concept vehicle in September.

Luminar, which was founded in 2012, also has development agreements with Toyota and two other unnamed carmakers. Volvo is said to be the first of the companies to fully leverage Luminar’s pose estimation and perception platform. The carmaker now is working to develop software to use the technology to identify millions of objects and predict their movements.