Bosch will debut its first in-house designed lidar sensor for automated driving at CES 2020
As the world’s largest automotive supplier, Bosch produces a vast array of the components that go into the machines we drive. Bosch is also a pioneer in the field of driver assist systems going back to the launch of its electronic ABS in 1978. At CES 2020, the German behemoth is announcing a new product to its lineup, its first lidar sensors.
Bosch already produces and supplies radar, camera and ultrasonic sensors for advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) so it’s not a surprise to see lidar added to its catalog of products. The supplier has a partnership with its crosstown neighbor in Stuttgart, Daimler to develop highly automated driving systems for robotaxi applications. Bosch and Daimler recently launched their first public robotaxi pilot on San Jose, California.
Unlike most of its tier one supplier competition including Continental, ZF, Veoneer, Valeo and Aptiv, Bosch hasn’t acquired, invested in or partnered with a lidar startup for its sensors. According to Bosch spokesman Tim Weiland, the new sensor has been developed entirely in-house.
Unfortunately, technical details of the new sensor are extremely sparse at this time. Hopefully, Bosch will share more information in Las Vegas. Like most current lidar designs, this is a time of flight sensor that emits pulses of light and measures the time required for it to reflect back to calculate the distance to the target.
No information is available about the specific architecture of the design but based on the description of it having a wide field of view, it seems reasonable to assume that this is not a rotating style sensor like the familiar Velodyne units. Bosch already has experience manufacturing micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) which are also commonly used in many of the existing lidar products available. It is probable that Bosch is using a MEMS mirror system to steer the laser beam.
No information is available on the type of laser being used but since Bosch claims “long range” this is more likely to be a 1550 nm laser. The most common lasers used for lidar sensors are the 905 nm lasers used by companies like Velodyne and 1550 nm used by Aeye, Innoviz and Luminar. The 905 nm lasers are lower cost but can potentially cause eye damage so power output and thus range has to be limited. The 1550 nm lasers are so-called eye-safe, allowing them to be used with a higher output.
Building sensors for automotive applications is challenging because the components can be exposed to such a wide array of environmental conditions from extreme cold to temperatures of 120F and beyond as well as rain, snow, salt, vibration and electromagnetic interference. With Bosch’s long experience making automotive components and systems, it should be well positioned to produce sensors with the required durability.
Bosch isn’t publicly discussing timing or cost for volume production but it is providing samples to customers now. As a major supplier that relies on high volumes to profitable, Bosch is no doubt aiming to make its lidar relatively affordable so that automakers can adopt it for a range of applications.