Five Coolest Automotive Technologies from 2022
Self-driving cars don’t seem to be getting any closer, as tech firms shut down and prototype investigations pile up. However, the technology that goes into producing autonomous vehicles can still be useful, even if the steering wheel and pedals remain. Specifically, LiDAR is an important piece of tech, best used in tandem with radar and cameras.
LiDAR is an abbreviation of Light Detection and Ranging and it works by using light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure the range ahead. In automotive terms, LiDAR helps create a geothermal picture of what is ahead, something that is especially helpful when testing autonomous vehicles. However, as traffic fatalities have risen this year, it’s set to become an important tool for modern vehicles using advanced driver assistance systems. In tandem with cameras, LiDAR can help prevent accidents by engaging automated braking systems significantly earlier than a radar-based system could.
One company, Luminar, is set on reducing traffic fatalities by 100 million lives over the next 100 years, working with Volvo and Polestar. That’s a lofty goal, one that even I won’t be around to see. The system itself is all new, built up over 10 years, and works together with a computing core in Volvo and Polestar’s newest EV SUVs.
“Now that you can have dramatically greater safety on the vehicle, not just in autonomous mode, but all the time, there’s that opportunity for consumers to really go out and say, ‘Hey, we need this on our cars!’,” explained Luminar CEO Austin Russell in an interview with Autoweek. “We should be valuing our lives, we should be making this difference, we should see this democratized, not just as a select technology on high-end vehicles, but on every vehicle.”
Ultimately, Russell doesn’t want to replace the driver, but rather add technology. Instead of making the driver redundant, like Tesla and GM’s Level 2 systems do, ADAS should be acting to fix driver mistakes proactively. Luminar’s systems aim to do just that, while saving the driver time and effort when the situation is appropriate. It’ll be a waiting game to see how these goals pan out, but the driver-centered mission of Luminar and other companies like Innoviz seems to be a step in the right direction.