Radar could supplant lidar in self-driving vehicles

Not everyone is convinced. But more people who rely on lidar are at least intrigued.

Jason Fischer, executive chief engineer of autonomous technology at General Motors, said the automaker is squarely a “lidar-based company.” He does not believe that imaging-radar tech is yet on par.

“I don’t believe it’s there today,” he said. “But it’s a growing field, it’s something we’re looking at because there’s cost parity there.”

It’s not just cost parity. Imaging radar provides information to automated systems that can help them get out of tricky situations, particularly if they are receiving false-positive obstacles from other sensors. Radar can be an accurate cross-check, Markel said.

“The cars are getting false alarm hits and that’s why they can’t move forward,” he said.

Amit Kumar, vice president of engineering at automated-driving company Plus.Ai, which has focused its software on the trucking industry, sees the potential for imaging radar to replace lidar.

Imaging radar is not yet commercialized, he said. “There are certain issues with the imaging radar,” Kumar said. “If manufacturers can overcome them, there’s some potential there.”

Phil Magney, founder and principal adviser of VSI Labs, a St. Louis Park, Minn., firm that tests and researches advanced safety and automated driving systems, said radar is entrenched as part of automated driving systems.

“I think radar has a bright future, so do cameras and lidar,” Magney said. “There’s no one sensor that can do it all.”