A huge new West Hall was added to the Las Vegas Convention Center for CES 2022 to accommodate all the automotive technology, and it seemed like nearly every booth had an Autonomy and/or electrification story to tell. Machine vision and sensing are the keys to unlocking the potential of autonomy and eventually ridding our roads of the 90-plus percent of vehicle collisions attributable to human error and to keep our goods moving with truck drivers in short supply. Here were some cutting-edge technologies we spotted—using human vision—on the machine-vision and sensing fronts.
Some 39 machine-vision companies presented LiDAR solutions at CES 2022, but of these SiLC’s Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave solution impressed us the most. Here’s how FMCW LiDAR works: Instead of determining distance by measuring the time it takes for laser light pulses to go out to an object and come back again (time-of-flight), these lasers continuously vary the frequency (color) of their light. They then split this oscillating color laser beam in two, routing one beam directly to the light collector while the other is projected out into the environment. But before that beam exits, it travels through a spiral or racetrack-shaped “wave guide” that measures about 2 meters in length, but at nano scale it all fits on a fingernail-sized silicon chip. Those 2 extra meters put that beam’s color phasing out of sync by a set amount, against which the total amount it’s out of sync can be used to compute the distance the reflected light traveled out to the object and back.