3D LIDAR Scanning and Self Driving Cars

No doubt you’ve heard of the potential of self driving cars and what they could potentially mean to safety and reduced traffic.  With thousands killed in accidents due to driver error one wonders if 100 years from now we’ll wonder why a human was ever allowed to pilot such a dangerous machine.  Self driving cars can even let the blind drive!The heart of most of these self driving systems is 3D LIDAR or a laser based radar system.  Essentially the car can make a 3D map of its environment to allow it to safely navigate.  The technology isn’t all that dissimilar to 3D scanning technology used by FARO and others to create 3D images of single objects, people or whole environments.  Many companies like Tesla already has similar radar technology installed on vehicles on the road with the potential for self driving capability, it’s just not fully enabled yet.  Here’s a great video of it helping a driver avoid an accident.

Computers aren’t perfect, see the last time your computer or phone locked-up, but you’d imagine they could do better than humans.  A Google car had the first fender bender where it might have been at fault after over 1.3 million miles driven, but I challenge you to find a human driver over what amounts to a lifetime that has done better.  Even so, the technology is going to have to be darn near perfect before it’s released to be sure the companies can cover the potential liability.

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