Toshiba initiated LiDAR research to advance autonomous driving and infrastructure resiliency. In addition to extending the range, with a wider viewing angle and better resolution, it had to make the LiDAR even smaller. However, there has long been a trade-off in LiDAR range and size against the requirement of an eye-safe laser. Akihide Sai, the Senior Research Scientist at Toshiba’s Corporate Research & Development Center behind the new LiDAR, explains the challenge: “To extend the range of a laser emitted by a single projector, you have to increase its intensity. If you do that, you also have to increase its emission width, to avoid a beam that focuses on a small spot and is strong enough to impair eyesight. The problem is, a wider emission requires a larger projector.”
Toshiba’s solution is a LiDAR that can use multiple small projector units, the laser beam source. They all emit an eye-safe beam in the same direction, which increases the effective range. This approach also keeps down the LiDAR’s overall size.
The advances that realized the new LiDAR started with shrinking the volume of the projector unit to 71cm3. This was achieved with an innovative circuit design that reduced the motor control board by 60% against the size of the previous prototype, and using know-how in 3D component mounting to reposition components and lenses.