Mitsubishi Electric, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Motors Corp (MMC), is a large part of all the cool technology Mitsubishi Motors puts into their vehicles and is continuing to design technology that will greatly benefit the automaker for years to come. During the last two Consumer Electronic Shows, Mitsubishi Electric showed up with plenty of self-driving tech, concepts, and demonstrations. The 2020 CES focused mainly on mobility solutions and the recent contract between Maas Global Oy and MMC. Since 2017, Mitsubishi Electric has been developing autonomous technology, and over the last few years, has continued to advance this tech. The newest system is called the MEMS LiDAR solution.
A little review, LIDAR systems are what many self-driving vehicles use to scan the world around them. Through the use of lasers that illuminate objects, vehicles, and pedestrians, and then reflects that data back to the LiDAR. Through the use of mirrors rotated by motors to capture the light reflected back to the LiDAR, the system is then able to use the data to create three-dimensional recreations of its surrounding environments in real time. Some systems are advanced enough to create entire 3D maps, whereas others mainly develop a grid of objects and their range.
Mitsubishi Electric is taking this kind of technology a step further through the use of a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS). Via the incorporation of a LiDAR system and a dual-axis (horizontal and vertical) MEMS mirror, an extra-wide horizontal scanning angle has been created to accurately detect the shapes and distances of objects ahead of the vehicle. This leads to better scanning of vehicles ahead, oncoming vehicles, pedestrians crossing the road, traffic lights, traffic signs, and roadside obstacles.
This new system is not only lightweight in design but is much easier to mass produce. Unlike conventional LiDAR systems that require large mirrors to maximize light collection and create a wide scanning angle for an accurate representation of information surrounding the vehicle, Mitsubishi Electric’s new MEMS LiDAR is small, measuring 7mm by 5mm, and made from a silicon substrate using semiconductor-processing technology. Going forward, Mitsubishi Electric aims to also achieve a larger vertical scanning angle to allow the detection of vehicles and pedestrians in close proximity.
Whether or not this technology has already been put to work in the Mitsubishi Electric xAUTO is unclear, but we do know how well this self-driving concept operates. During the 46th Tokyo Motor Show in 2019, the xAUTO doesn’t require the latest and most high-definition maps available on one’s mobile device to navigate its way around the world. This concept vehicle can actually operate its way through residential areas, private roads, farm roads, etc. without over-the-air maps. Sounds like a system that can create its own high-definition local map.
We may also see this kind of technology popping up in the mobile solutions that MMC and MaaS Global Oy are working towards, one of which will be a competing self-driving ride-hailing service. Through the utilization of a camera system, congestion predictions, and real-time crowd prediction, consumers will be able to hail an autonomous ride from anywhere that’s designed to pick them up from virtually anywhere and take them where they need to go. It’s going to be a crazy world when the autonomous car race picks up.
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