BMW and Toyota and FMCW Lidar

This is not a piece of modern art: Rather, it is an image from Blackmore Sensors and Analytics of Bozeman, Montana, micro-Doppler signatures of pedestrians (or maybe that’s a pedestrian, singular) walking (see it now?). Blackmore is a company that is developing FMCW lidar.

This is not a piece of modern art:

Blackmore

Rather, it is an image from Blackmore Sensors and Analytics of Bozeman, Montana, micro-Doppler signatures of pedestrians (or maybe that’s a pedestrian, singular) walking (see it now?).

Blackmore is a company that is developing FMCW lidar. That’s “frequency-modulated continuous wave.”

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According to Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Toyota Research Institute, "Perception is critical to the perception-prediction-planning automated driving stack, and we're excited to see the innovations that Blackmore is bringing to the top of this stack. Blackmore's groundbreaking FMCW lidar technology is designed to eliminate interference, improve long-range performance, and support both range and velocity — a triple threat to make autonomous driving safer."

And Zach Barasz, partner at BMW i Ventures, said, “Blackmore has unique and innovative FMCW lidar technology that delivers a new dimension of data to future vehicles.”

BMW i Ventures has led a $18-million Series B funding round for Blackmore; Toyota AI Ventures, along with Millennium Technology Value Partners and Next Frontier Capital, also provided investment in the firm.

A difference in the Blackmore lidar development from that of some others’ approaches is that it is using continuous wave light rather than short laser pulses. This, the company claims, is beneficial for solid-state beam steering, and the solid-state approach (versus a mechanical one) can help lead to reduced costs for lidar technology. Blackmore also says that processing of the signals obtained by its FMCW lidar can be handled by “commodity embedded processing hardware,” again something that helps reduce the cost of the systems.

As for some of the system specs, the automotive lidar it has developed has a range of >200 meters and a velocity measurement of ± 150 m/s, 0.2 m/s resolution.

Just as BMW and Toyota are collaborating on a sports car development, evidently the tech finance arms of the organizations are finding another area of agreement.