Electric Vehicles and Autonomy: A Powerful Combination for Greater Safety

Dieter Gabriel
June 22, 2021

Dieter Gabriel takes a closer look at lidar in ADAS solutions
The automotive industry is rapidly changing. The increasing use of electric vehicles (EV) is also driving vehicle digitization. When switching to an electric vehicle, customers may naturally expect a higher level of digital convenience, including commerce and entertainments services. The push for technological innovation may further increase the demand for connectivity and shared mobility solutions. Additionally, this endeavor could act as a demand accelerator for more security functions and increase expectations for more Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) functions in general.
From this point of view, it could be assumed that advancing electrification can lead to increasing synergies in the further development of ADAS technology. Both EVs and ADAS bring major efficiency and sustainability advantages.
According to a paper released in the MDPI Energies Journal, EV drivetrains are far more efficient than the internal combustion engines used in the vast majority of cars and trucks today. The paper also states that electric power generation and delivery is more efficient than oil extraction, production and delivery needed to fuel gasoline-powered vehicles. This decreases greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants at every level.
As market acceptance of electric vehicles increases, it may be likely that enhanced ADAS solutions will receive more attention from consumers. That’s because ADAS can contribute to more safety for all road users.
A critical component to ADAS and autonomous solutions on all vehicles, including EVs, is lidar technology. In our last article here (vol. 7/ winter 2020), we discussed lidar and ADAS, noting:
“Lidar sensors have the potential to enable automakers to create superior ADAS, addressing edge-cases for current approaches, including winding roads, potholes, on/off ramps and roadways with unclear lane markings. This functionality can be realized in a compact form factor; for example, directional lidar sensors can be situated behind the vehicle’s windshield for streamlined integration, allowing vehicles to maintain their aerodynamic design…
Lidar-powered ADAS is happening now, delivering next level capabilities to protect road users, assist drivers and save lives.”
Let’s take a closer look at lidar in ADAS solutions and how these, including in conjunction with smart roadside lidar, contribute to enhanced safety for all road users.
Lidar sensors are on the path to potentially become a key component of ADAS, helping to enable safer mobility. These sensors can capture high-definition, three-dimensional information, providing vehicles with a more detailed view of their surroundings to maximize roadway safety.
Improving Pedestrian Safety
The majority of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities occur between dusk and dawn, according to a U.S. Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report. Additionally, during the global pandemic, the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate rose an estimated 20 percent in the first six months of 2020, noted another GHSA report.
Advanced 3D lidar, which can be considered becoming the “eyes” of a vehicle, is capable of performing in a wide variety of lighting conditions. In contrast, cameras may suffer in low lighting and in the dark. For example, whereas cameras may struggle to see beyond a vehicle’s headlights, lidar has the ability to detect a pedestrian or bicyclist at night should either of them enter the roadway. This capability gives the vehicle’s system time to react and avoid a collision. Therefore, it is possible to prevent many deaths and injuries, day and night, by employing autonomous solutions and ADAS that use lidar for perception and object avoidance.
Fig1 2Side by side comparison of images produced by automotive camera and a solid state lidar (in dark conditions with streetlights and low beam headlights)
Pedestrian Automated Emergency Braking (PAEB) systems – an ADAS solution – can be significantly improved by adding lidar. Lidar-enhanced PAEB systems can interpret lidar data to avoid and mitigate crashes with moving and static objects. Through predictive collision monitoring, they can compare a vehicle’s trajectory with other road users and objects to identify and avoid imminent crash scenarios.
PAEB performance in nighttime conditions is examined in a recently published Velodyne white paper, “Improving Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB) in Dark, Nighttime Conditions.” The white paper includes the results of nighttime PAEB tests conducted by Velodyne. The tests evaluated a highly-rated PAEB system using camera and radar-based technology and Velodyne’s lidar-based PAEB system. In these nighttime conditions, the camera and radar-based PAEB system failed in all six scenarios while the lidar-based system avoided a crash in every situation tested. These results and can be also viewed in the video:

Vel1Images show vehicle with lidar-based emergency braking stopping before adult target @ 50% overlap (above) and vehicle with camera and radar-based solution only crashing into adult target (below)
Powering Intelligent Traffic Infrastructure
Looking beyond vehicles, lidar is emerging as an important capability in making transportation infrastructure more efficient, sustainable and safe. For example, in the United States, at University of Nevada, Reno’s Nevada Center for Applied Research project deployed lidar sensors with traffic signals in real-world test environments. The initiative leveraged the data captured with lidar sensors to help improve traffic analytics, congestion management and pedestrian safety. To learn more about this project, please read the white paper “Roadside Lidar Helping to Build Smart and Safe Transportation Infrastructure.”
The project validated the feasibility of using roadside lidar sensors to provide high-accuracy, multimodal traffic trajectories by testing with different sensors, deployment methods and traffic scenarios. It demonstrated that roadside lidar data can support connected-and-autonomous vehicles (CAV), enhance traffic mobility and safety analysis and integrate with existing traffic infrastructure for automatic pedestrian/wildlife warning.
Lidar Advancing Safety
Deploying lidar in vehicles and transportation infrastructure has the potential to significantly advance safety. Lidar can enable vehicles to have precise, reliable navigation in real time to detect objects, vehicles and people that might pose a collision threat. EVs with ADAS features or with full autonomy deliver powerful solutions to assist drivers, protect pedestrians, save lives and advance sustainability. Lidar can also impact transportation planning and systems, and prepare roadways for the future.
Velodyne Europe GmbH

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Dieter Gabriel
Marketing Manager EMEA, Velodyne Europe

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