Velodyne has recently released the new version of 3D lidar VLP-16.
Velodyne, one of the most famous names known by researchers in the autonomous driving field, is a Silicon Valley-based technology company with three major divisions: Velodyne Acoustics, Velodyne LiDAR, and Velodyne Marine.
Velodyne lidar has been extensively used by different prototypes of intelligent vehicles, which provids stable and accurate 3d sensing data of the environments around vehicles (click here for details). Google is exploiting heavily on the 3d lidar data, for building accurate map, and detecting objects. Though Google has shown its impressive results in using the 3D lidar, one vital drawback is the cost of this device. Normally, the first version of the 3d lidar, HDL-64E, costs 85,000 USD, which is sufficient to buy 8 private cars in USA. The high costs, definitely, are a huge barrier for popularizing this new technology.
One good news is recently released by Velodyne. They just published their newest version of 3D lidar VLP-16, using only 16 beams of laser. Comparing to HDL-64E, the new type VLP-16 is in a smaller and more compact design, 10 cm high, weighting 1.2 kg. More important, the price drops greatly to less than 8,000 USD (7,999 USD), just one-tenth of HDL-64E. While HDL-64E is 25 cm high, weighting 13kg, 85,000 USD. Besides the HDL-64E and VLP-16, there is also another version HDL-32E, with 32 beams, costing 30,000 or 40,000 USD.
Replacing the 64 beams with just 16 beams sacrificed the performance and coverage of lidar. VLP-16 covers only ±15 degree vertically, providing 300,000 points per second, while HDL-64E covers ±26.8 degree, proving 13,000,000 points per second. Velodyne hasn’t release the video for data visulization. In my Chinese lab, we have both the HDL-64E and HDL-32E. Once we compared the two original datas of one same outdoor environment, the data from HDL-32E is much smooth and more accurate, with less noises. Let’s hope that the quality of single beam is even better than HDL-32E. See the below video for an example from HDL-64E.
But at least the decreased cost of 3d lidar is an inspiring thing for car manufacturers. The smaller size could also be helpful for designing a more beautiful intelligent vehicle. The Velodyne says, they are continuing decrease the costs, with expectation as low as 1,000 USD.
In fact, the Velodyne lidars are not only used in autonomous driving field. Nokia is using this device for gathering map data. Radiohead even once used the HDL-64E for shoting their MTV video “House of Cards” (see below), which could be one of my options later for my own MTV video.
More product descriptions are below:
The new VLP-16 sensor is smaller still, vastly more cost-effective and developed with mass production in mind. At the same time, it retains the key features of Velodyne’s breakthroughs in LiDAR: “Real-time, 360°, 3D distance and calibrated reflectivity measurements.”
Preliminary specifications call for a range of more than 100 meters, with a target range of 150-200 meters. The unit’s low power consumption (<10W), light weight (about 600 grams), compact footprint (Ø100mm x 65mm), and dual return option make it ideal for UAVs. Velodyne’s LiDAR Puck supports 16 channels, ~300,000 points/sec, a 360° horizontal field of view and a 30° vertical field of view, with ±15° up and down. The Velodyne LiDAR Puck does not have visible rotating parts, making it highly resilient in challenging environments.