Many LiDAR companies claim that their devices are solid-state, but not all of them qualify. So, what does the term “solid-state” even mean?
The term originated in the 1960s after the invention of transistors and electronic equipment manufacturers wanted to differentiate their transistor and integrated circuit-based products from the older vacuum tube-based ones. Historically, solid-state devices have provided significant advantages in size, reliability, power consumption and cost over the technologies it replaced.
Transistor radios became hand-held, portable radios rather than large vacuum-tube sets that were housed in a cabinet. Solid-state relays replaced mechanical moving-arm relays providing more reliability. In computers, solid state hard drives replaced spinning magnetic disks with flash memory providing faster speeds and fewer catastrophic failures.
In the automotive industry, car companies and parts suppliers often strive for solid-state devices to ensure lower costs, reliability, and longevity. Some EV battery makers are aiming to go solid-state. In this case, solid-state means literally removing liquids from the device, using only solid materials. It’s a goal that still hasn’t been met on a large scale.
While all LiDAR and other similar sensors use highly sophisticated integrated circuit devices, not all can claim to be solid-state. For LiDAR sensors that will power the more effective advanced-safety systems and automated driving of the future, solid-state means no moving parts. This is unfortunately not the case with many lidar manufacturers who say their systems are solid-state. If the sensor uses some scanning part that moves, like a spinning motor, rotating mirrors, or micro electro-mechanical system, it’s not solid-state.
And this is the true breakthrough of our LiDAR sensor. Instead of a mechanical part that moves a one-dimensional laser beam around to create a three-dimensional map of the surroundings, our two-dimensional fully addressable arrays emit thousands of individual pulses of light to enable a one thousand frames per second scan rate. This creates a detailed three-dimensional image that’s far more accurate than a video camera or the human eye. It gives the car a superpower of heightened awareness of its surroundings. It’s the secret to autonomous driving.
Opsys does this without any moving parts. For the automaker, that means a system that meets automotive reliability requirements, that’s easier to calibrate and easier to maintain. It means durability, better performance, and lower costs. If it weren’t truly solid-state, you wouldn’t get that benefit.
So next time you hear a LiDAR manufacturer claiming their device is solid-state, ask about the moving parts!