The German deep-tech firm Blickfeld provides high-performing, scalable LiDAR technology for autonomous mobility and IoT applications. At CES 2022 in Las Vegas, the Munich-based company has unveiled a concept for the seamless integration of LiDAR sensors in cars that offers a 360-degree view.
Automated driving test vehicles currently need up to 40 cameras, radars and LiDARs. With Blickfeld’s concept, the sensors are virtually invisible.
In this special CES Mobility Moments, we talk to Dr. Florian Petit, Blickfeld’s co-founder, about the timeline for fully driverless vehicles, and the company’s expansion plans.
Describe the new concept on show at CES 2022
We are showcasing a ground-breaking concept for the seamless integration of LiDAR sensors in automobiles. The concept uses the Blickfeld Vision Mini sensor to achieve seamless integration and to allow for subtle incorporation with the vehicle through multiple mounting positions like the headlamps, rear combination lights, and side mirrors.
The concept enables a 360-degree view to ensure full visibility – a crucial building block on the way to making autonomous and driver-assisted mobility safer.
How will the new concept help with the commercial roll-out of AVs?
The concept solves the problem of today’s automated driving test vehicles with up to 40 cameras, radars, and LiDARs that are not mass market-ready due to their numerous attachments on the sides and roof of the vehicles. Our concept improves AV’s NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) safety scoring especially for the protection of vulnerable road users (VRUs) in the event of an accident, and also reduces air drag, and thus increases the range.
In addition, the concept solves common problems of today’s AV for heating, cleaning, and vandalism protection for the sensors. Seamless integration. as demonstrated in our new concept, will be a core factor in striving towards mass-market adoption for autonomous as well as ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) applications.
What is your timeline for fully driverless vehicles?
Since the tech companies’ technology – striving right to Level 4 autonomy – is still in the testing, I believe that fully autonomous vehicles are still a relatively distant reality. But many OEMs climb the ladder to higher ADAS levels rather quickly, like Mercedes S-Klasse reaching Level 3 lately.
But jumping from level 3 to 4 is quite a huge effort that requires many technological – and other – steps.
Our seamless integration concept is applicable for the next generation of automobiles which will be available – given the long development cycles of the automotive industry – in about 4 years or later. Let’s see if the other required technologies and regulations will be ready just as fast.
How can the public be reassured about the safety of AVs?
The first and foremost task is to take security seriously and do anything to make AVs as safe as possible. This means, in the field of sensors, to equip the vehicles with all sensors that are needed to allow for 360-degree round view and for perfect capture of the surroundings at all weather and light conditions.
The right sensor set, including cameras, radar, ultrasonic and LiDAR sensors, will be crucial for safety aspects.
Delivering really safe vehicles is the best basis to reassure the public that AVs are really safe.
Apart from mobility, what are the other applications for your tech?
We also offer LiDAR sensor hard- and software for industry use in many applications. For example, our solutions are used at Frankfurt Airport to measure people flows in order to reduce waiting lines, to measure the volume of bulk material, to count visitors at trade shows like IAA in Munich, or to help marine scientists watch the waves to predict storms, making timely countermeasures possible.
How will Blickfeld use its new funding?
The extension of financing comes at a time of significant growth for our business. We plan to use the new funding to support our expansion in Asia and the US. In addition, we plan to further develop our sensors and software for ever more reliable capturing and utilization of 3D data.
To reach these goals, we will raise the number of employees significantly.
What will urban mobility look like by 2030?
The two most important drivers for a profound change in the urban mobility landscape are climate change and the attractiveness of the city for its inhabitants. To tackle both, new kinds of vehicles and mobility concepts will be necessary.
The number of electric vehicles will increase significantly, car-sharing will be implemented, the number of autonomous busses on defined routes and other new transportation models will rise, smart traffic applications will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.
It is the responsibility of cities’ governments to make offers that improve peoples life quality and of companies like us to help offer the right solutions. When we do so jointly, I am optimistic that people see the advantages and will be ready for a change.