How mounted lidar could help cities move safely

Industry

Velodyne Lidar Inc., a supplier of sensors and self-driving technology, has a few developments underway that it says could transform city infrastructure and the automotive sensor space.

The San Jose, Calif., company has been building out its Intelligent Infrastructure Solution, known as IIS, a hardware and software product that combines its lidar sensors with artificial intelligence software from Bluecity, a partner based in Montreal.

The objective: to improve road safety through real-time traffic data analysis and predictions.

Last week, Velodyne announced the next generation of its Velabit sensor, which has higher performance at a lower cost than the previous generation, said Jon Barad, the company’s vice president of business development.

Barad, 43, spoke with co-host Steve Schmith on the episode of Automotive News‘ “Daily Drive” podcast scheduled for Friday, June 18. Here are edited excerpts.

Q: What is IIS?

A: Our Intelligent Infrastructure Solution is a new full end-to-end smart city solution that we are providing to municipalities, other cities and customers who want to utilize lidar in a fixed position, not necessarily on a moving robot or a vehicle or the traditional areas and applications where lidar is being applied, but using all the same benefits that lidar offers — just putting it on a light pole or on a wall or ceiling and using it to monitor the environment.

Who would be a typical customer

The typical customers that we are targeting are municipalities and government agencies. There’s other types of customers that could have interest in fixed-mounted sensor applications. Those could be security applications. Those could be crowd analytic applications at sports stadiums and airports.

How might passage of an infrastructure package in the U.S. speed deployment of IIS?

It absolutely would, and it’s important that the infrastructure is managed and maintained by cities and municipalities, which rely on taxes and other funding. The proposals that are out there to modernize our infrastructure and to bring more smart technology into it are a fantastic opportunity for us to not only accelerate the deployment, but really accelerate the innovation that can happen when all of these types of applications start to come together.

Velodyne just announced its next-generation Velabit sensor. How has it improved

This next generation has a larger field of view and approximately three times more points per second emitted out into the environment. It’s small. It’s lightweight. It takes advantage of our proprietary Micro Lidar Array technology. It provides us with the ability to produce high-quality, high-resolution sensors at very low cost. Velabit will certainly have an impact on the automotive sector, addressing cost while maintaining high performance and also shrinking the form factor so that it can be integrated in more places.

How will deploying these types of vehicle and infrastructure technologies affect how U.S. roads operate?

Our roadways will be safer. Even during this COVID era where traffic is down, pedestrian fatalities are still up because people are out and about more. Having more intelligence in our infrastructure will improve safety. Aligned with that, we will see reduced traffic and congestion. Finally, reducing pollution is important. Intelligent solutions, just simply by improving flow patterns through an intersection, can reduce pollution.

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