Eyal Levi leads the development of night vision systems for improved driver safety and is working on enhanced vision for both driver-operated and levels 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles for major automobile manufacturers. Today, he shares his perspective on lidar and night vision technologies and the challenges and promise of laser systems for automotive lidar.
What brought you to the laser solutions team at Leonardo Electronics US?
Ten years ago, while working in another company, we were looking for a specialized laser, and their laser team, formally Lasertel, was the only one capable of delivering.
Currently, we are trying to find a unique solution that another laser diode vendor had promised and failed at. They had originally said no, pointing out some challenging aspects of the design.
If this team tells you they can do it, they do it—on time.
When we pushed again, we agreed with their team on an alternate approach they’d suggested that met our requirements for a laser illuminator. They do not limit themselves to their past experience—they’re willing to invest in advancing their capabilities.
How do you see the automotive market taking shape?
Automotive is moving from mechanical to electrical systems, and lasers can provide a significant improvement in driver safety. Gated imaging for night vision improves visibility in fog, rain, snow and during nighttime driving. It allows you to see only what you want, increasing detection capabilities by enhancing the contrast between the object and the background. Currently, the performance of lidar and thermal imaging is limited in fog and rain and still faces a spatial resolution issue at long-range. Our technology can fit security, maritime and trains, but the real opportunity to impact safety is in automotive. We’re currently seeing fast adoption in China and are actively working with several leading tier ones and OEMs in the EU and China.
Cost is, of course, a challenge for rapid adoption, but utilizing lasers as illuminators is more an issue of meeting size, power and efficiency demands. Leonardo is working with us on scalability—sourcing larger wafers to drive out cost and meet expected volume demands. They’ve also been instrumental in overcoming the environmental challenge of dissipating heat, designing for very small heat output and utilizing airflow to manage the heat.
Next, we’ll be working on above-100 m daytime detection of small objects on the road. This far-range small object detection will meet the needs of category 5 autonomous vehicles and provide resolution sufficient to identify a pedestrian above 150 m 24/7 in harsh weather conditions.
With recent growing interest in both China and the EU, 2018 will be an extremely important year for BrightWay Vision.