An Explanation of LIDAR

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Volvo Lidar Sensor

After our article recently on the Volvo EX90 and the mention of LIDAR we have had a few of our readers ask what is it?

So we’re going to use this article to explain what it is and how it can be used in the automotive industry.

What is LIDAR?

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technology that uses laser light to measure distances and create high-resolution 3D maps of the surrounding environment. While LIDAR technology has been used in fields such as surveying and geology for decades, it has become increasingly popular in the automotive industry in recent years.

One of the main uses of LIDAR in cars is for autonomous driving. Autonomous vehicles rely on sensors such as LIDAR to create a 3D map of the environment and detect obstacles in real-time. By using LIDAR, autonomous cars can navigate through complex environments with more accuracy and safety.

LIDAR can also be used to improve the safety of human-driven cars. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that use LIDAR can detect and warn drivers about potential collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians. In addition, LIDAR can help with lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot detection.

There are two main types of LIDAR used in automotive applications: mechanical and solid-state. Mechanical LIDAR uses a rotating mirror to scan the laser beam across the environment, while solid-state LIDAR uses an array of lasers that emit and receive light simultaneously. Solid-state LIDAR is generally smaller and less expensive than mechanical LIDAR, but mechanical LIDAR can provide higher resolution images.

While LIDAR technology has many advantages, there are some limitations to its use in cars. For example, LIDAR can struggle to detect objects in heavy rain, snow, or fog due to the scattering of light by these particles. Additionally, LIDAR can be expensive, which can make it difficult to include in low-cost vehicles.

Overall, LIDAR technology is a key component of the growing trend towards autonomous driving and improving the safety of human-driven cars. As LIDAR technology continues to advance and become more affordable, we can expect to see its use expand in the automotive industry in the years to come.

What cars are currently fitted with LIDAR?

Currently, only a handful of cars on the market are equipped with LIDAR technology. These include some models from high-end automakers such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla. For example, the Tesla Model S and Model X have a suite of sensors including LIDAR, while the Audi A8 has a LIDAR sensor as part of its ADAS system.

However, it’s worth noting that most autonomous vehicle prototypes being developed by companies such as Waymo and Cruise also use LIDAR technology. As LIDAR becomes more affordable and widely available, we can expect to see it used in more cars in the coming years.

How does LIDAR improve the safety of human-driven cars?

LIDAR is a critical technology in improving the safety of human-driven cars. With its ability to detect and accurately measure the distance to objects in real-time, LIDAR helps drivers to avoid collisions and reduce the risk of accidents. One of the primary uses of LIDAR in cars is for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that warn drivers of potential collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians. By providing drivers with real-time alerts, LIDAR can help to reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by driver error.

LIDAR can also be used to improve the accuracy of lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot detection. By providing drivers with more detailed information about the environment around them, LIDAR enables these systems to function more effectively and provide better feedback to the driver. For example, LIDAR can help to detect other vehicles or obstacles in blind spots, allowing drivers to change lanes more safely.

In addition to improving safety, LIDAR technology can also help to reduce the risk of accidents caused by poor visibility conditions such as fog or heavy rain. While traditional camera-based systems may struggle to see through these conditions, LIDAR is less affected by atmospheric interference and can provide more reliable data.

Patty Atindehou

Patty is the content writer for and loves her cars and the automotive industry in general. She worked for large dealer groups in the United Kingdom and the USA specialising in high-end and premium vehicles. Her goal is to provide the most interesting information on the vehicle subscription industry.

Article Details

Post Published: March 2, 2023
Post Last Updated: November 15, 2023
Article Categories: ,
Read Time: 4 minute(s)