White Paper: Sensors/Data Acquisition

Making Sense of Sensors

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LiDAR scanners are critical components for autonomous vehicles and serve as a key input into current onboard systems such as adaptive cruise control (ACC), collision avoidance systems, traffic sign recognition, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning. Quickly and reliably sensing the environment and assembling a detailed picture of a vehicle’s surroundings presents challenging technical requirements for the systems’ sensors.

This demands complementary but independent sensor systems with guaranteed functional safety and environmental qualification. Environmental heating, heat from other system components, and varying levels of environmental light are just some of the challenges that sensors need to combat. This is not to mention economics, as all components in the car should be cost-efficient.

As the industry moves forward, design engineers can choose among a broad variety of sensor technologies including Silicon PIN Diode Detectors, Silicon Photomultiplier (SiPM), Singlephoton Avalanche Diode (SPAD) Detectors, Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs) Photodiode Detectors, and Avalanche Photodiode (APD) Detectors. Each has advantages and drawbacks. With that technological variety comes an even broader field of suppliers to carefully evaluate.

With sensors being the eyes of every LiDAR system, makers should consider several factors beyond performance/price ratio when choosing a sensor supplier — including experience, customization capabilities, and automotive qualification expertise.

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