Optics of Autonomous Vehicles


Optics of Autonomous Vehicles

Optics and photonics technologies provide the eyes for self-driving cars

By Jeff Hecht

Cameras and lidars are playing key roles in the development of self-driving cars. Tesla Motors of Palo Alto, CA (USA), used a front-looking camera in the autopilot system it introduced in 2014, and the new version announced in October 2016 includes eight cameras mounted around the car.

Experimental self-driving cars being tested by Google and others also sport roof lidars for three-dimensional mapping.

The optical systems are part of a suite of sensors that work with an onboard computer to map the local environment and steer the vehicle through a dynamic environment that contains traffic signals, pedestrians, other cars, tractor trailers, and even wild animals. The ultimate goal is a robotic system that drives better than error-prone humans, but most observers think that’s many years away.

Detailed content: https://spie.org/membership/spie-professional-magazine/optics-of-autonomous-vehicles