Optical sensing technologies such as LIDAR and lower range 3D depth sensing are on the verge entering the autonomous mass-produced car of the future.
Applications of these technologies comprise vehicle’s surround sensing and supervision of the driver and the interior of the vehicle.
RADAR technology preceded optical technologies. Most of today’s premium cars have this technology on board and it has reached the volume car segment.
Together with cameras it allows for a driving automation level almost reaching SAE level 3. Here the driver can leave hands off the wheel, and sometimes, the eyes off the road.
For higher automation levels the existing sensor suite must by expanded by another, fully redundant technology looking outwards with a similar range as RADAR. Furthermore a technology looking inwards with a short range and high resolution is needed to monitor the status of the driver.
Optical technologies working with light in the infrared range have proven to serve both needs. Furthermore, spatial resolution of optical sensors is orders of magnitude higher compared to RADAR.
For both applications in the vehicle, efficient light sources are needed. For LIDAR exterior sensing high optical power, high efficiency and long term reliability are needed. Vertically emitting laser (VCSEL) arrays offer these features. VCSEL array light sources can also be employed for the illumination in the vehicle interior. They offer great advantages over LEDs such as modulation speed, low spectral band width and frequency stability. Both applications and the pros and cons of VCSELs were discussed in the presentation.