BMW’s First AVs Will Feature Innoviz’s Solid-State Lidar

Say goodbye to funny-looking autonomous vehicles topped with big, spinning cylinders: BMW’s first series-production autonomous vehicle, scheduled to ship in 2021, will use solid-state Lidar sensors for a more normal — even sleek — design.
Innoviz, the Israeli startup that will produce the sensors and accompanying software, announced that this is the first deal to supply any kind of Lidar for a series production AV. Series production cars are mass-produced for the general market, as distinct from specialized vehicles like the modified SUVs and minivans being used in current self-driving trials.

Lidar systems bounce lasers off of all nearby objects many times per second to build a 3D map of their surroundings in real time. They’re part of the standard suite of sensors on almost all AVs, along with radar and cameras.

Most of the self-driving cars on the road for testing and development today have mechanical Lidar units that take in a 360-degree view around the vehicle by rapidly spinning as they shoot out lasers.

Newer, solid-state systems from companies like Innoviz and LeddarTech have no moving parts, so they’re smaller, more efficient and ultimately much less expensive. Instead of one large sensor on top, they use four or five smaller ones around the car. Innoviz says its current InnovizOne sensor measures 60mm high by 120mm wide by 105mm deep.

Lower cost will help to make Lidar, and AVs, affordable for consumers instead of just companies that use them for businesses like ride-hailing, ABI Research said in a report last week.

Innoviz’s deal with BMW, through global automotive integrator Magna, was reached after a year of proving the technology to the famously demanding luxury automaker, Innoviz CEO Omer David Keilaf told The Connected Car. It should help to convince other manufacturers to adopt solid-state Lidar, he said.

“Since we have a design win with BMW today, it’s a big endorsement,” Keilaf said. “They manage you in a way to make sure that you will not screw up.”

Innoviz is currently on its first generation of Lidar. It designs and manufactures the hardware and also makes its own computer vision software for identifying objects and generating 3D maps. BMW will get the second generation, which Innoviz plans to ship in late 2019. It will support up to Level 5 autonomy, he said. Magna will integrate the Lidar sensors and software into a complete AV system that will include the computing platform to run the software.

BMW has disclosed plans for two AVs in 2021. It’s also shown two different AV design concepts, the i Vision Future Interaction and the Vision Next 100, that make no apparent compromises for self-driving technology.

One of the cars coming in 2021 will be for consumers and will offer Level 3 autonomous driving, which works in specific circumstances with the driver always ready to take over. BMW says the Level 3 system will work at speeds up to about 80mph and owners will be able to turn it off and drive on their own.

The other BMW will be designed for trials by ride-hailing companies and will be equipped for Level 4 and Level 5. While Level 4 offers fully driverless operation in certain areas, Level 5 supports full autonomy under all conditions with no need for a steering wheel or pedals.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *