LiDAR - Vehicle environment sensor technology for autonomous driving

Applications for improved quality of life

In autonomous vehicles, the human is only a passenger; the car keeps the lane independently and detects obstacles and dangers. LiDAR sensors are used so that the vehicle can detect its environment. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) enables distance and speed measurement between objects and the vehicle and is based on the emission of laser signals into the environment, the reflection of which is detected and analysed.

For this purpose, Fraunhofer IPMS is developing microscanning mirrors that meet the high requirements of autonomous driving and are small and integrable at the same time. The approach being pursued is that of a "scanning eye", which enables digital vision in three dimensions.

A micromirror scanner module captures the environment by distributing laser radiation in two dimensions. The third dimension in space is determined from the light reflected from the object using various methods such as time-of-flight measurement, coded pulses or the demodulation of FMCW signals. The MEMS mirrors of Fraunhofer IPMS can ensure ambient detection in the range of a few centimetres up to several hundred meters. Due to their low weight and good integrability, the modules are insensitive to vibration despite their mobility and can detect the environment without measurement blur.

The MEMS scanners, made of single-crystalline silicon, are extremely robust and fatigue-free and meet the requirements in terms of optical scanning ranges as well as shock and vibration stability. As such, they meet the reliability requirements of a solid state LiDAR. CMOS-compatible silicon technology also allows for scalable, cost-effective manufacturing of the modules and enables their integration into existing systems. The application of LiDAR technology for a MEMS scanner-based "eye" for vehicles is thus a promising path towards autonomous driving. 

Car-2-car communication

Applications for improved quality of life

Connected vehicles are fundamental for innovations such as autonomous driving and platooning, i.e. automated driving in columns. Up to now, radio-based methods such as WLAN (IEEE 802.11p) have been used. This technology is well established and allows high data rates. However, such standards also have their weaknesses, such as a narrowly limited frequency range, signals that can be manipulated and electromagnetic compatibility. Alternative transmission paths to complement the systems are therefore in demand.

Li-Fi uses light sources such as LEDs instead of radio waves and modulates them. The emitted signals are then picked up by a photodiode. Real-time Li-Fi technology, with latencies in the microsecond range can be used as a redundant or additional channel to WiFi.


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  • Hardware and module design
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Realistic holography with spatial light modulators

Applications for improved quality of life

A virtual projection that appears so close to reality that you want to touch it. Traffic signs superimposed on the windscreen, embedded three-dimensionally and realistically in the driver's field of vision. This is not fiction, but should be possible in the future with the micro-mirror matrices of Fraunhofer IPMS.

Millions of tiny mirrors built on a semiconductor chip will bend the light in such a way that realistic 3D images are created as spatial projections. The individual mirrors, which vary in number and size per chip depending on the application, can be lowered individually to create a two-dimensional pattern that can be used to generate three-dimensional holographic images.

The underlying process of holography uses the wave character of light to achieve spatial representations. The basis for this is the perception of the human eye, which only perceives the reflected light waves and not the object itself. On this basis, holographic projections enable the spatial representation of objects as holograms. However, these images were mostly static and unable to depict moving images. Previous approaches for moving holography, on the other hand, were not close enough to reality because light modulators are not available in sufficient quality.

With the micro mirror arrays of Fraunhofer IPMS, computer animated holography will be possible in the future, reproducing such a realistic light field that the real and virtual worlds merge - moving and in real time. This makes the use of holography in driving as augmented reality or also in the field of multi-dimensional television possible. 

Automotive Network IP Core Designs

© Sergey Nivens - shutterstock
Fraunhofer IPMS develops platform-independent IP core controllers with very low latencies for automotive vehicle electrical systems.

Functional safety is an essential prerequisite for safetycritical systems that are used in vehicles, for example in ADAS SoCs and modules. Specific ASILs (Automotive Safety and Integrity Levels) must be met for each application. Compliance with the standard also applies to the IP that is integrated into the SoC. The IPMS develops automotive IP designs with functional safety in mind and makes it easier for manufacturers to achieve the ASIL levels for vehicle safety of their products, which are classified in the ISO 26262 standard for vehicle safety.

Digitization enables the automation and networking of vehicles, opening up new options for us in mobility. The high demands on computing power, flexibility and efficiency require new approaches in microelectronics as well as in computing and software architecture. In order to achieve these goals, the strategic projects of the "MANNHEIM" funding guideline are to research high-performance computing platforms, novel vehicle architectures and future-proof software development processes and methods as part of the "Automotive Industry Future Fund".

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