DETROIT — To offer its Alpha Puck lidar sensor to automakers as an industry-leading technology, Velodyne Lidar first had to design a manufacturing system for it.
The company created a fully automated production line in San Jose, Calif., that allowed it to handle tight tolerances at the robust volumes needed to support automotive mass production.
The result is that the Alpha Puck system has become Velodyne's flagship product for surround-view sensors.
The lidar sensor, officially known as VLS-128, incorporates 128 lasers, provides real-time 3D data up to 0.1-degree vertical and horizontal resolution, has a 300-meter range and features a 360-degree surround view. The system has surpassed other available lidar systems, based on three parameters — field of view, resolution and range, said Mircea Gradu, Velodyne senior vice president of quality and validation, speaking on the sidelines of SAE International's WCX World Congress Experience here last week.
Velodyne says the technology is precise enough to support high-speed highway autonomous driving. It is attracting interest from a long list of customers to use in Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous applications, Gradu said.
"They are extremely interested in the long-term production of the sensor," he told Automotive News. Some customers, which he declined to name, are already using Alpha Puck.
"The fleets are in operation," he said, referring to test vehicles from an automaker and Velodyne. "If you go into China, places in Europe and certainly the U.S., you'll see the Alpha Puck on vehicles."
He said the manufacturing process is a departure from the company's previous sensors, which included manual operations throughout production.
"You're trying actually to create a denser image with a high level of detail. Identifying limbs on a pedestrian is extremely important because you can certainly follow the movements and derive some conclusions in terms of trajectory of that pedestrian. More resolution and range is extremely desirable."