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LiFi, color-changing cars and lidar light up CES 2022 in Vegas

06 Jan 2022

Innovations from Kyocera, BMW and E Ink, Quanergy, and Innoviz, while Luminar and Volvo outline autonomous vehicle launch.

Optics-inspired innovation has once again made an impact at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2022) in Las Vegas, with automotive lidar to the fore. Here’s our round-up of some notable announcements from the Las Vegas event:

Kyocera’s SLD Laser (KSLD) subsidiary - the company originally set up by blue laser diode pioneer Shuji Nakamura and UC Santa Barbara colleagues - claims to have set a new world record for ‘LiFi’ communications.

According to the Californian firm, its demonstration of a data rate in excess of 90 Gb/s is more than 100 times faster than a 5G link.

The high-speed links are based around KSLD’s “LaserLight” emitters, which operate in both the visible and infrared regions of the spectrum. The same sources can be used for night vision, optical power transmission, lidar, and dynamic lighting applications, states the firm.

CEO James Raring added: “To pioneer the future of lighting and wireless connectivity, our ultra-high speed LiFi technology is eye-safe, impervious to ambient lighting, secure, efficient, and RF-free.

“KSLD is commercializing LiFi solutions for customers in mobility applications, automotive, and undersea, as well as RF-sensitive environments such as airplane cabins, smart factories, healthcare, secure government facilities, and smart cities.”

• Digital paper pioneer E Ink, which spun out of MIT’s Media Lab back in 1997 but is now headquartered in Taiwan, has teamed up with auto giant BMW to create a color-changing concept car (see image, above).

The “iX Flow” vehicle uses E Ink’s programmable “Prism” optical films to alter reflectivity, and switch the car’s appearance between white and black. According to E Ink, the films comprise millions of tiny microcapsules filled with white and black pigments that can be moved up or down using an electric field.

The E Ink material is bistable – meaning that power is only needed to switch color, not to maintain it. The company suggests that as well as enabling vehicle personalization, the technology can help maximize efficiency by using a white exterior on hot days to reflect sunlight, and switching to a black exterior to absorb heat on cold days.

“Because E Ink is incredibly low power and durable, we can put our display technology on almost any surface, transforming a once static space into something dynamic and spectacular - and sustainable,” stated the firm.

• Lidar company Luminar Technologies and Volvo revealed launch plans for the car firm’s forthcoming electric vehicle, which will feature Luminar’s “Iris” lidar sensor as standard.

The new SUV, slated to appear some time this year, will represent the first introduction of Volvo’s “Ride Pilot” feature, described as “an unsupervised autonomous driving capability for highways”.

The plan is to launch the vehicle in California initially, although that remains subject to safety verification by the state. For the verification process, Volvo has applied for a testing permit with the California Department of Transportation and intends to begin testing on highways in the middle of the year.

Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell said: “With Luminar as standard on every vehicle, [Volvo’s] next SUV has the opportunity to be the safest vehicle ever produced, while also being the first to enable true autonomy and at highway speed.”

• Among several companies touting new lidar technology, Quanergy Systems said that it has doubled the range of its chip-based optical phased array (OPA) sensor.

The demo included detection and tracking of a target with 10 per cent reflectivity mounted on a vehicle stationed 200 meters away, and a person wearing dark clothes who approached the vehicle from that distance.

Quoted in Quanergy’s release, analyst James Hodgson from ABI Research said: “Its range performance, CMOS-based process, coupled with its ability to operate with no moving parts with a very high mean-time-between failures, positions OPA as the leading technology for high manufacturing scale automotive applications, expected to surpass Digital MEMS and Flash.”

Quanergy co-founder and chief development officer Tianyue Yu added that the OPA offered “highest reliability” with no moving parts, alongside adaptive zoom to focus on any obstacle, and active scanning to enable steering capability and flexibility to collect a point cloud in any pattern.

“These attributes provide for high-volume, high-yield, low-cost manufacturing,” Yu said. Quanergy is the latest of several lidar companies to seek finance through a stock market listing, and expects to close its special-purpose acquisitions company (SPAC) merger deal with CITIC Capital Acquisition Corporation by the end of March 2022.

• Israel’s Innoviz Technologies says that its new “Innoviz360” product offers high-definition lidar at a significantly lower cost than existing lidar systems.

Said to offer 360x64-degree coverage, 0.05x0.05-degree resolution, up to 1280 scanning lines, plus a range of 300 meters, the sensor will be aimed at deployments in robotaxis, shuttles, and autonomous trucks, alongside non-automotive applications.

That could include logistics, mapping, and smart infrastructure uses, with Innoviz saying that it expects to begin sampling the product by the end of this year, and for it to begin generating revenues from 2023.

The Innoviz360 is said to be compatible with systems including Nvidia’s “Drive”, a development platform and reference architecture for designing and deploying autonomous vehicles.

TRIOPTICS GmbHBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationLASEROPTIK GmbHOptikos Corporation CeNing Optics Co LtdAlluxaHyperion Optics
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