US startup promises affordable lidars

January 31, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Cepton Lidar Point Cloud
The lidar technology is of essential importance for all forms of autonomous driving. But affordable sensors are still rare. Now the US start-up Cepton has founded a subsidiary in Europe whose sensors are supposed to be both: Affordable and available.

Less than three years ago, Jun Pei founded the company Cepton in order to attack the market for lidar sensors with a patented technology. The PhD from Stanford University had previously been Vice President Engineering at Velodyne - the company whose lidar sensors were considered the "gold standard" in the automotive industry until recently. These however had one disadvantage, albeit a serious one: they were far too expensive to equip a production vehicle. Together with his new VP Engineering Mark McCord and the AI and algorithm expert Jun Ye, Jun Pei developed a new generation of lidar sensors. It is based on the patented MMT technology (Micro Motion Technology), which minimizes the use of mechanical components, thus reducing costs and increasing reliability. The laser sources in the sensors are moved by coils; rotating mirrors are a thing of the past.

Cepton demo
For demonstration, two sensors are attached to
the roof of a car. With this configuration, the sensors already 
achieve an angle of view of 120°.

 

The company does not reveal exactly how the technology works - at least it is not another version of solid-state technology, asserts Director Business Development Jürgen Ludwig, who is now establishing a subsidiary in Europe. Cepton also does not reveal the exact number of laser sources in its sensor units - only that the sensors contain "more than one laser diode, but significantly less than the 64 laser sources of other manufacturers". With its MMT technology, Cepton is competing against the likes of Ibeo or Innoviz,. In contrast to most solid-state lidar proponents, Cepton can already deliver series products, he said.

Cepton has currently developed four different sensors; one of them is already being produced in smaller series at the company’s Home Base in San Jose (Calif), the next three are scheduled to roll off the assembly line by the middle of the year. The MMT technology is well suited for automated production because it does not require any time-consuming calibration, explains Ludwig. This should contribute to a comparatively low price.


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