Often, when we talk about the biggest hurdles to overcome in the shift toward driverless vehicles, the concepts of "social inertia" and potential legislative roadblocks tend to dominate the conversation. However, a recent report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) could point to a new, surprising culprit as the root cause of slow or sluggish autonomous vehicle adoption as the tech behind this industry-wide shift moves closer to market readiness.
As Jamie Condliffe of the MIT Technology Review reports, the issue starts and ends with the use of low-quality lidar sensors in many of today's self-driving prototypes. Unlike the units that come with price tags that transcend the $80,000 mark, the "budget" versions utilized by many automakers simply aren't capable of the fidelity necessary to handle highway driving or adverse road conditions in a safe and efficient manner. In fact, with failure rates and significantly higher percentages, the technology currently employed by many automakers needs a serious upgrade before reaching the level of sustainability needed for mass usage on streets and roads across the globe.
Of course, the story surrounding lidar's role in the realm of self-driving technology isn't all doom and gloom. As Condliffe goes on to note, industry players like Valeo (a French automotive parts maker) claim to have the means required to initiate the high-volume production needed to outfit large quantities of driverless vehicles. While this bold assertion fills many in the industry with excitement, the fact remains that even if Valeo's supply can meet the expected surge in demand, the units currently being produced by the company are still only reliable in heavy traffic and at speeds up to 37 miles per hour (mph).
To put it all in plain terms, if self-driving vehicles truly are the future of the automotive world and poised to become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, then the lidar technology that serves as the "central nervous system" of these cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) needs to find a happy medium between effectiveness and affordability.
Interested in learning even more about how the minimization of lidar's costs and the growth of this technology could radically shape the push toward market-ready driverless vehicles? Then go ahead and give the link below a click to check out the complete story from the MIT Technology Review's Jamie Condliffe.