Osram Opto Semiconductors has announced the availability of a LIDAR package – essentially the spinning laser array found on self-driving and mapping vehicles – that costs $5 and works as well as $70,000 tower systems and hockey-puck sized $8,000 systems.
This mini-LIDAR has four laser diodes connected together to ensure accuracy without tuning. The kit also includes tiny mirrors that track the beams and move at 2 kilohertz to track the environment in 3D using minute movements. It is eye-safe – it peaks and then shuts down quickly – and it is about the size of a hockey puck. From the release:
￼The 4-channel LIDAR laser from Osram Opto Semiconductors consists of a laser bar with four individually controllable laser diodes and a control circuit integrated in the module. The entire module is surface-mountable, which reduces assembly costs and the time needed for fine adjustment at the customer. To create the laser bar four laser diodes are produced next to one another in a single production step so they are precisely aligned to each other and can be individually controlled. “The new laser is a bar consisting of four laser diodes that are separated in the production process but are not individual diodes. The result is a laser that emits four perfectly parallel beams. Our customers no longer have to spend time laboriously adjusting the individual light sources”, explained Sebastian Bauer, the product manager at Osram.
LIDAR is a key technology in 3D mapping and self-driving vehicles. By mass producing the diode array and selling it cheaply Osram is tearing down a massive barrier for researchers and startups. The new package will ship in 2017.