Lidar has proven to be one of the most useful kinds of sensor technology for autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars, because it can facilitate mapping across a wide range of distances. Unfortunately, three-dimensional lidar sensors tend to be bulky and expensive. That not only makes them difficult for hobbyists to take advantage of, it also limits their practicality in the automotive industry — nobody wants a sensor the size of R2-D2 sitting on the roof of their car. The good news is that the situation should be changing this year, as Velodyne has announced plans to start selling their new Velabit lidar sensor in mid-2020.
The new Velabit lidar sensor is currently on display at Velodyne’s booth #7520 at CES 2020 in the Las Vegas Convention Center North Hall. It’s a 3D lidar sensor that is suited for both the commercial and hobbyist markets. It’s very compact at just 2.4” x 2.4” x 1.38”, which is smaller than a deck of playing cards. It has described as being “lightweight,” but the exact weight hasn’t been specified in the Velabit press release. It does have a range of up to 100 meters, a 60 degree horizontal field of view, and a 10 degree vertical field of view. It uses a class 1 903nm laser, which is safe for use in public environments because it isn’t harmful to eyes.
The compact design of the Velabit makes it ideal for applications such as blind-spot monitoring, emergency braking, and other high-tech safety features. It’s also small enough to be used with drones, other UAVs, and ground-based autonomous robots. Velodyne is targeting the $100 price point once Velabit reaches high-volume production, which is very competitive for a 3D lidar sensor with these kinds of specs. Velodyne already sells a range of more traditional lidar sensors, so there is no reason to think that they won’t be able to achieve their goals for the Velabit this year.