Continental is strengthening its LiDAR sensor portfolio through a minority investment in LiDAR company AEye, Inc. LiDAR sensors, besides camera and radar, is amongst the key technologies for Automated Driving. AEye has developed a long-range LiDAR technology combining an amplifiable 1550nm laser with patented feedback-controlled Microelectromechanical System (MEMS) scanner. This technology can be configured via software and thus be optimized for manufacturers vehicle and applications. The AEye LiDAR offers maximum leverage for passenger and commercial vehicle applications because it combines a high dynamic spatial resolution with a long-range detection. Vehicles can be detected at a distance of more than 300 meters and pedestrians at a distance of more than 200 meters. AEye’s ability to detect small, low-reflective objects, such as bricks, at a distance of 160 meters with multiple measuring points is pivotal for Automated Driving in both passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Continental will utilize this LiDAR technology and industrialize the sensor to deliver a fully automotive-grade product. The first series production is currently scheduled for the end of 2024.
By partnering with AEye, Continental complements its existing short-range 3D Flash LiDAR technology, which goes into series production later this year, supporting highly automated driving in a global premium vehicle program. This start of production of the High-Resolution 3D Flash LiDAR (HFL) is a key milestone.
Commercial vehicle application is a touchstone
Automated vehicles capable of AD SAE level 3 or higher require a sensor setup that includes camera, radar and LiDAR to detect objects and usable trajectories around the vehicle. LiDAR sensors offer the strength of robust 3D pixel level detection at high resolution. Continental uses tailored automotive-grade LiDAR technology for both short- and long-range sensing. For the short range, 3D Flash LiDAR technology offers 3D pixel images very quickly and precisely by illuminating and capturing an entire scene in one pulse per frame of data (global shutter technology). For a robust detection of objects at long-range distances, 1550nm agile LiDAR technology provides a proven combination of software configurable HD resolution of over 1600 points per square degree and detection ranges beyond 300 meters. The patented MEMS-based design of AEye’s LiDAR provides tremendous solid-state reliability, while also delivering uncompromising performance under adverse weather and road conditions.
Commercial vehicles with their large mass and longer stopping distance face special challenges to enable safe automated driving. Automation for these vehicles will require a maximum sensor range and resolution to ensure sufficient processing time for automated decisions and actions.