Canadian Firm May Have Early Lead on Driverless Technology

The development of laser radar technology that will allow vehicles to understand the obstacles around them is one of the hottest products in global research and development. This autonomous technology is known as "lidar", which maybe short for light detection and ranging or light/radar or laser interferometry detection and ranging, and will allow vehicles to travel safely from point A to point B. Similar to the laser speed detector used by law enforcement, a lidar device emits an infrared light. Using a specialized GPS receiver with optical remote sensing, the device can measure variable distances in real time.

Quebec City-based LeddarTech evolved from a Canadian government-funded research facility called the National Optics Institute. The company has since become a global player in the development of artificial intelligence and lidar devices. LeddaTech's solid-state equipment uses technology to create a 3-D topographical map with obstacle detection and collision avoidance for natural and manmade environments. With nearly ten years of R&D, the company claims its lidar gun produces images that are over two dozen times sharper than its competitor's equipment.

Early mechanical versions used for driverless vehicle applications have proven to be too expensive for mass production and are subject to excessive wear and tear. LeddarTech's devices use high-speed processors to provide 360-degree detection of lanes, traffic, pedestrians, signs, stoplights and anything else in the way. Several pioneers of mechanical lidar devices are also ready to release solid-state versions that will enable autonomous vehicles to safely decide where to go and when to stop.

Indeed the race for driverless technologies is in full swing, and major automotive manufacturers have thrown their support behind several international companies dedicated to developing a host of future products. LeddarTech has attracted big-name industry backers including Delphi Automotive, Germany's Osram Licht and Fiat Chrysler's parts division. Without doubt, there are billions of dollars at stake waiting for advanced driver-assisted systems for commercial deployment of highly advanced driverless equipment solutions.

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