Blackmore to Bring Range and Velocity to Lidar Sensors
Juliver Ramirez posted on July 23, 2018 |
FMCW lidar technology can accurately perceive range and velocity while also reducing interference. (Image courtesy of Toyota AI Ventures.)
FMCW lidar technology can accurately perceive range and velocity while also reducing interference. (Image courtesy of Toyota AI Ventures.)

Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, Inc., announced in March that it had raised $18 million with the help of companies like BMW i Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Millennium Technology Value Partners and Next Frontier Capital. These funds will greatly support the Montana-based company as it develops and improves its frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar technology, a solution for autonomous vehicle sensors.

FM Lidar vs. FMCW Lidar

A traditional frequency-modulated (FM) lidar system begins its process by producing lasers of different wavelengths. Motionless objects then reflect those lasers, returning the same wavelength back to the system with the object’s basic range information.

Moving objects, however, provide more complicated information for FM lidar systems. Motion creates a Doppler shift in the FM wavelengths, warping them as they reflect and return. The returning laser wavelengths contain information about the moving object’s range and its velocity. This is more information than an FM lidar system can simply handle. Enter Blackmore’s FMCW technology.

Blackmore’s FMCW lidar system is capable of point-by-point scene segmentation, single photon sensitivity and a new paradigm for interference rejection. The system can capture the running subject’s varying speeds and directions, as shown through its accurately intensifying reds and blues. (Video courtesy of Blackmore Sensors and Analytics, Inc.)

The company has developed and tested its FMCW lidar system for years, arriving to a smart sensor that deconstructs the warped wavelength lasers and calculates the moving object’s range and velocity in high resolution and in realtime. Onscreen, these different wavelengths appear as different colors, signifying the specific directions and speeds of moving objects. Naturally, this solution is ideal in autonomous vehicle applications; sensors can perceive the respective positions and speeds of other vehicles, and then react when those values become dangerous in relation to the user’s vehicle.

“Advances in new sensor technologies, like lidar, are going to make cars safer and, eventually, autonomous,” said Zach Barasz of BMW i Ventures, a partnering company in the investment. “[Blackmore’s] unique and innovative FMCW lidar technology … delivers a new dimension of data to future vehicles.”

The $18 million investment is set to aid Blackmore in boosting the production of these effective yet cost-efficient FMCW lidar sensors, providing a smart solution to advanced driver assistance system developers and the overall self-driving car industry.

“Perception is critical to the perception-prediction-planning automated driving stack, and we’re excited to see the innovations that Blackmore is bringing to the top of this stack,” said Managing Director of Toyota AI Ventures Jim Adler. “Blackmore’s groundbreaking FMCW lidar technology is designed to eliminate interference, improve long-range performance and support both range and velocity—a triple threat to make autonomous driving safer.”

Read more about the latest in autonomous vehicles at Sensors Expo Starts Up With Driverless Cars.

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