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Bill Gates Meets LiDAR

While there is a burgeoning proliferation of companies that are in the LiDAR space, each with its own take on utilizing laser pulses to create a precise map of its surroundings for purposes of ADAS or full-blown automation, a Seattle-based company has a distinction that certainly sets it apart from its competitors.
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While there is a burgeoning proliferation of companies that are in the LiDAR space, each with its own take on utilizing laser pulses to create a precise map of its surroundings for purposes of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) or full-blown automation, a Seattle-based company has a distinction that certainly sets it apart from its competitors: Lumotive quickly points out that it is “the Bill Gates-funded startup developing LiDAR systems for autonomous vehicles.”

Although there is a whole lot of difference between LiDAR and Windows 95, let’s face it: the Gates connection certainly is distinctive.

Lumotive

(Image: Lumotive)

From the tech point of view Lumotive uses something called “Liquid Crystal Metasurfaces” (LCMs) and silicon fabrication which are said to be contributors to manufacturing efficiency, along with functional benefits including range, resolutions and frame rate. The LCMs are semiconductor chips that steer laser pulses based on the light-bending principles of metamaterials; they have large apertures—25 x 25 mm--that improve perception, including a long scanning range. As Lumotive co-founder and CTO, Dr. Gleb Akselrod, puts it, “Our large aperture is like having a bigger telescope, allowing us to see dramatically farther than other systems.”

According to Lumotive, the beam steering capability provides advantages over LiDAR systems that use spinning assemblies (too iffy) or those that use MEMS mirrors or optical phased arrays (the mirrors have a small optical aperture; the phased arrays have low efficiency). The Lumotive chips have no moving parts and because they’re produced with mature semiconductor manufacturing operations and feature liquid crystal display packaging, they’re said to be low cost, high reliability and small. (The systems will be available for beta testing in Q3 2019.)

If nothing else, the Bill Gates connection provides the company with some cred in the crowded field.

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