Enabling reliable LiDAR object detection in harsh weather with Canatu film heaters
As the world gradually shifts towards autonomous driving, safety and reliability become even more important. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) has emerged as a key technology for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Its ability to improve safety by providing real-time LiDAR object detection through laser beam time-of-flight measurements has garnered significant interest in the automotive industry.
However, like all new technologies, LiDAR is not without its limitations. In particular, harsh weather directly affects LiDAR object detection range and resolution. The good news is that innovative solutions, such as the Canatu film heater, have emerged to overcome these challenges, paving the way for a safer and more autonomous future on the road.
How LiDAR object detection works?
Automotive LiDAR systems are incredibly powerful. They work by emitting laser light pulses and measuring distance based on the time it takes for these pulses to bounce back after striking objects. LiDAR can fire hundreds of thousands of pulses per second, and turn these measurements into a detailed 3D map of the environment. Consequently, LiDAR can deliver high precision perception that traditional sensing technologies, such as radar, cannot match.
Trends and challenges in LiDAR adoption
The adoption of LiDAR has gained traction in recent years. Rising safety standards in the automotive industry have increased demand for ADAS systems, where LiDAR technology plays a key role. Automotive OEMs and Tier suppliers have made substantial R&D investments, resulting in e.g. more compact and cost-effective solid-state LiDAR systems. Consequently, these advancements have facilitated LiDAR integration in vehicles. While the industry’s main focus still remains on improving cost and performance, ensuring reliable LiDAR performance in inclement weather conditions is becoming increasingly important.
“LiDAR scans during fog show significant noise, which can be identified by a human, but an AI may struggle. When monitoring sensors’ ability to identify targets at varied distances, LiDAR visibility fell from 250m to under 50m in fog.”Richard Dudley, principal research scientist at UK’s National Physical Laboratory
Harsh weather has a direct impact on range and resolution, leading to safety concerns and operational challenges. To gain quantitative understanding of weather impacts on LiDAR object detection, the UK’s MET Office and National Physical Laboratory (NPL) are working on a joint Sensor Assurance Framework project which includes testing in natural environment at a fully instrumented meteorological test site.
During testing, NPL scientists monitored the vulnerability of ADAS sensors. According to Richard Dudley, principal research scientist at NPL, LiDAR scans during fog show significant noise, which can be identified by a human, but an AI may struggle. Moreover, when monitoring sensors’ ability to identify targets at varied distances, LiDAR visibility fell from 250m to under 50m in fog. These are prime examples of why the impact of weather on LiDAR reliability can no longer be overlooked.
Addressing weather impact on LiDAR
To address the weather-related challenges on LiDAR object detection, Canatu has developed an advanced solution aimed at ensuring ADAS sensors can operate reliably even in harsh weather conditions. The Canatu film heater is a revolutionary technology with a simple yet vital objective: to keep the LiDAR field-of-view clear by effectively defogging and deicing the LiDAR cover lens. By doing so, the Canatu LiDAR heater prevents the build-up of snow, ice, and fog on the cover lens which could otherwise obstruct the reliable LiDAR sensor ranging.
Our film heaters are designed to ensure reliable autonomous driving in all weather conditions. They provide industry-leading optical performance featuring high LiDAR transmittance and minimal scattering. These completely wire-free, thin-film heaters deliver fast and uniform heating across the sensor cover, avoiding common issues seen with metallic wires, such as thermal gradients, hot spots, and obstruction of the view. The Canatu film heaters are compatible with 12V-48V systems, and can be seamlessly integrated into the plastic stack through film insert molding, resulting in a robust structure. Our heaters pass rigorous environmental reliability test standards, including the 85°C / 85% accelerated life test.
Autonomous driving in any weather
In a world where driver safety is paramount and autonomous driving is becoming a reality, LiDAR has emerged as a key technology. However, challenges persist in harsh weather conditions. That’s where advanced solutions, like the Canatu film heater play a key role. Canatu has highly developed expertise in developing film heaters with forerunner OEMs and technology providers. We have been in mass production with the automotive industry since 2015 with our touch sensor products. This experience equips us with the necessary know-how and resources to tackle the most demanding projects in the automotive industry. Together with our collaborators, we create breakthrough solutions that enhance safety, enabling autonomous driving – in any weather.