Pennsylvania-headquartered Argo AI, an autonomous driving technology company, recently introduced its proprietary Lidar sensor Argo Lidar. As per the Ford and Volkswagen backed company, Argo Lidar has the industry’s longest-distance sensing range that can accurately identify and spot objects 400 meters away with great precision, with lower chances of accidents and no requirement for backup drivers.
With the introduction of Argo Lidar, the company claims to have overcome the obstacles that were preventing the commercialisation of self-driving cars. The Argo Self – Driving System (SDS) can safely drive and detect distant objects on busy streets, neighbourhoods, and highways with 360-degree awareness around the day. Notably, Argo Lidar is the centrepiece of the Argo SDS. It can handle challenges such as
- Detecting vehicles that reflect less than 1 percent even at long distance and pitch darkness
- It manages the instant transition from darkness to light
- Distinguishing between moving objects from static objects
Argo Lidar is based on Geiger mode sensing, which can detect even the smallest particle of light. This property is very beneficial for sensing objects with low reflectivity. Combined with wavelength operations above 1,400 nm with Geiger mode sensing, Argo Lidar its unique capabilities.
This breakthrough was enabled by Argo’s acquisition of Princeton Lightwave lidar technology company in 2017; the company had extensive experience in LiDAR sensors developing an innovative long-range LiDAR. It helped Argo extend its range and resolution to achieve self-driving capabilities in challenging urban environments.
“The technology that underpins their (Princeton Lightwave) lineup of LiDAR sensors — which already serve the commercial mapping and defense industries — will help us extend the range and resolution needed to achieve self-driving capability in challenging urban environments. y,” the company had then said.
With Princeton Lightwave’s acquisition, Argo innovated in sensor hardware and software to improve virtual driver systems such as object detection in low light, poor weather conditions, and safety in high-speed environments like highways.
What to expect?
Argo is working closely with both Ford and Volkswagen in the technology integration and development of commercial-grade self-use vehicles to ensure the highest possible commercial uptime while also improving customer satisfaction.
It is expected that Ford will be the first major automobile manufacturer to use Argo AI’s self-assisted driving system in a commercial setting. The programme was slated for 2021 but has been postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic. The prototype testing is currently underway in six different locations around the United States, including Europe, and two more will be added by year’s end.
Even though Argo AI is already using Argo Lidar prototypes on the public streets for testing, it is still early to analyse how this technology can function on the roads in the long run. With rapid development of AI in the automotive industry, it might not take too long for other companies to arrive at breakthroughs that may outperform Argo Lidar.
Several companies have been working on AI models for years with some successful launches, like Waymo, a partner company of Alphabet Inc, which started as the Google self -driving car program a decade ago. This American autonomous driving technology development company is the only company that commercially operates a self-driving taxi service without a backup driver. While Waymo continues to be the industry leader, there have been many international collaborations and developments on self-driving projects, which has changed the autonomous driving landscape. For example, last year Alibaba backed firm AutoX became the first company to start driverless testing on public roads.
Despite investing billions of dollars in the autonomous industry, most companies rely on cameras and Lidars to guide self -driving cars. Even though the cameras function well for long-distance, they fall short in performance under low lighting. The LiDAR, on the other hand, works well even in poor lighting but faces limitations in terms of range. These technological limitations prevented the vehicles from performing at their full capacity until now. With Argo Lidar, the Lidar’s ‘range’ challenge seems to be taken care of.
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Ritika Sagar is currently pursuing PDG in Journalism from St. Xavier's, Mumbai. She is a journalist in the making who spends her time playing video games and analyzing the developments in the tech world.