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Lidar may be in your future in places where you least expect it

Lidar does more than help autonomous cars create 3D maps of the highway to detect and avoid people, animals, objects, or other vehicles in their path. In anticipation of an expanding array of lidar applications, Velodyne Lidar contracted with Nikon’s Sendai subsidiary to mass produce lidar sensors.

Lidar works by measuring the time it takes for pulses of laser light to reflect off and return to the sensor. Different amounts of time for the laser pulses’ round trips enable algorithms to create 3D images.

Lidar has largely replaced radar for speed limit enforcement. Lidar’s narrow light beam and short duration — up to several hundred pulses can be sent, returned, and registered in less than half a second — contrast with radar’s wide beam radio waves, which make it difficult to impossible to target individual vehicles.

Velodyne is one of the leading lidar manufacturers in the world and seeks to expand its business. Waymo, which produces its own Laser Bear Honeycomb lidar units for self-driving cars, is also looking beyond vehicle autonomy. Earlier this year Waymo spread the word  it wants to partner with companies with non-automotive applications for lidar.

Velodyne chose Nikon to expand its Velodyne lidar production for strategic reasons. “Working with Nikon, an expert in precision manufacturing, is a major step toward lowering the cost of our lidar products. Nikon is notable for expertly mass-producing cameras while retaining high standards of performance and uncompromising quality. Together, Velodyne and Nikon will apply the same attention to detail and quality to the mass production of lidar. Lidar sensors will retain the highest standards while at the same time achieving a price that will be more affordable for customers around the world,” said Velodyne president and chief business development officer Marta Hall.

Velodyne’s partnership with Nikon isn’t exclusive. As lidar applications expand to robotics, security, mapping, agriculture, manufacturing, and further segments, Velodyne’s goal is to lower the unit cost of lidar sensors to supply new markets and enable even further uses. As the anticipated demand grows,  Marta Hall said, “It is our goal to produce lidar in the millions of units with manufacturing partners such as Nikon.”

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