High-resolution lidar to enable pedestrian gesture recognition

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Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology company, Insight LiDAR, says that its latest Insight 1600 system is the first lidar with the combined high resolution and velocity detection capabilities necessary to enable pedestrian gesture recognition. It is hoped that this ability can be used by AV perception teams to quickly and accurately predict the actions of pedestrians.

VP of business development at the company, Greg Smolka, explained, “When humans drive, we’re constantly scanning the environment around us. We’re watching for cars moving into our lane and looking at nearby pedestrians to see what they might do. For example, if a pedestrian looks both ways at an intersection, drivers understand that that person intends to cross the street.”

According to Insight LiDAR VP Chris Wood, detecting these subtle pedestrian movements that convey intent is an important safety capability that has eluded AV developers until now.

“When we initially designed Insight 1600, we expected its ultra-high resolution and instantaneous low-velocity detection with every pixel to be critical in making vehicle decisions, especially regarding other vehicle movement,” said Wood. “However, we’ve been surprised by all the ways perception teams are using this critical information. From separating close objects and more accurately identifying distant ones to now predicting pedestrian movement, we’re seeing how important this data is to safe AV operation.”

Wood reported that the company’s FMCW (frequency modulated continuous wave) sensors are believed to have the lowest minimum detectable velocity on the market.

FMCW uses a low-power, continuous wave of light instead of high-power laser pulses to sense its environment. Claimed to be much more sensitive than traditional lidar, this enables AVs to see objects much further away. The system’s ultra-high resolution, coupled with the FMCW architecture, detects enough pixels to enable AV software to not only detect, but also identify small, low-reflectivity objects at distances exceeding 200m.

“The Insight 1600, with its ultra-high resolution and advanced FMCW technology, opens the door to substantially better advanced driving assistance systems, as well as more capable and safer autonomous vehicles,” commented Michael Minneman, CEO of Insight. “What’s key here is both the quality and the amount of data the Insight 1600 generates. More data makes the AI easier and, ultimately, drives safety. As we drive, we’re all used to watching pedestrians to understand their intent. Now, for the first time, lidar can do the same thing.”


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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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