LIDAR sensors aren’t just for self-driving cars anymore

Most people will recognize a self-driving car based on the whirling sensor perched on the roof. LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, uses laser pulses to build a 3D model of the environment around the car. Essentially, they help autonomous vehicles “see” other objects, like cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. Chris Urmson, the former head of Google’s self-driving car project, once famously described LIDAR as “spinning Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets.”

They are very cool, but also very expensive. A popular early model from Velodyne, used by many self-driving companies, cost $75,000. Hardly practical for mass production. Thankfully, they’re getting cheaper. So cheap, in fact, that the companies leading the pack now predict…

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