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Conference Session C10 Paper #3124

Greg Jakubiec,(, Vidic, 2:00), Brendan Mullinix, (, 0012, Budny, 4:00)
Abstract- This paper is concerned with the topic of LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging technology, and its specific usage in autonomous or self-driving cruise control systems for automobiles. LiDAR is a high tech remote sensing technology that makes use of lasers to analyze and map various objects and landscapes. LiDAR works by emitting infrared, ultraviolet, or visible light at an object, and then measuring how quickly the light returns to the source, as well as measuring other disturbances in the laser as it returns to the LiDAR source. LiDAR technology is similar to radar and sonar technology, and is often called laser radar, although LiDAR is technically not a radar system; it relies on laser light instead of radio or microwaves, or sound waves like sonar. LiDAR, however, is able to provide much faster and more detailed, as well as higher resolution readings than radar systems. While LiDAR has a multitude of innovative and useful applications for society, we are particularly concerned with its use in remote sensing in autonomous automobiles. LiDAR allows automobiles to create extremely detailed, high definition maps of their surroundings in real time. Computer systems connected to the LiDAR systems then analyze this information to direct the car as safely and efficiently as possible, avoiding obstacles and collisions and obeying other regulations and rules. In this paper, we will explain how the electrical, as well as computer and mechanical, technology behind the operation and utilization of LiDAR systems work in autonomous automobiles, for driving and parking them. We will also detail and explain why autonomous cars with LiDAR systems will improve the quality of life of those who drive and use them, as well as society as a whole. We will also discuss the potential future of LiDAR technology and autonomous automobiles s well as research and explore the potential ethical complications of the use of autonomous automobiles Key Words - Grid-Based Processing, Laser, LiDAR, MultiLevel Fusion, Obstacle Maps, Radar, Road-Edge Detection. that interact with their surroundings and then bounce back to the recording device, the major differences being in the types of waves. Radar and sonar, however, both have large flaws that LiDAR does not, as we will explain in more detail later. To summarize for the time being, however, LiDAR provides a much more accurate map of the surrounding environment, and is able to scan much larger distance and ranges than radar systems. LiDAR was created to detect objects for collision avoidance, and mapping, and has a multitude of other applications in science and engineering, such as astronomy, geology, mapping at the atomic level, navigation, and urban planning. [1]. A major use of LiDAR technology is as a type of scanning and navigation system in autonomous automobiles, which greatly improves the accuracy and precision of the functions of these automobiles, making them safer and more efficient. FIGURE 1

Velodyne HD LiDAR [2]


LiDAR, short for Light Detection and Ranging, is a laser based 3-D scanning system, similar in basic function to sonar and radar. Sonar, radar and LiDAR all send out waves University Of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering The LiDAR device shoots out rapid bursts of invisible laser light in all directions, in a very similar fashion to sonar with sound waves, or radar with radio waves. The light travels towards whatever object is in its path, and then rebounds back towards the device. Receivers on the device

April 13, 2013

Gregory Jakubiec Brendan Mullinix

measure the time it takes for the light to return to the origin. It performs this task hundreds of thousands of times each second. With the distance of every object known, a digital 3D map of the environment is built. This is done through multiple complex algorithms, which may differ depending on the specific applications. We will discuss a few of these important algorithms that are used to operate self-driving cars later. All of this happens continuously, so that the map is able to update in real-time [1], (for example, as the car is moving through its environment), creating the most accurate environmental map as possible. As you might imagine, this kind of technology has many different current and potential applications in science and engineering. One of the most important of these is its use in 3D mapping, whether it be for an autonomous automobile, to survey environments in outer space, or to mapping landscapes on earth, as shown in the figure below: FIGURE 2 waves allows for more signals to be sent out in less time. as opposed to radio waves in radar systems, who do not have nearly the range or accuracy as lasers and since signals can be easily jammed and interfered with by natural occurrences in the environment, a consequence of the Doppler Effect [5]. The machine uses lasers primarily to gather data on the distance of objects from the device. Over a million points of light are shot out every second, and the returning light is read, and interpreted by complex algorithms within the LiDAR scanners computer. We will discuss these algorithms in greater detail later in the paper. The resolution of the image provided by the scan depends on the frequency of the pulses of light being shot out; Better resolution can be achieved with shorter pulses provided the receiver detector and electronics have sufficient bandwidth to cope with the increased data flow [1]. The wavelength of the laser light, however, must be controlled so that it does not harm the human eye. Specific wavelengths of Ultra Violet light, and Infrared light can cause serious damage to the eye, as they are not visible, and therefore you will not know when you are seeing it. Wavelengths of LiDAR lasers are typically around 1000nm, which is close enough to visible light to remain safe, while still providing the maximum amount of accuracy [1]. One specific LiDAR model, The Velodyne HD LiDAR system, utilizes 64 Class 1, eye safe lasers with wavelengths of 905nm [2]. As for the actual scanning, most LiDAR machines are equipped with a 360-degree horizontal field of view. The vertical field of view depends on the system where it is being used, but for a car, its typically 30 degrees. This allows light points to reach every direction needed for mapping. The Velodyne device, as mentioned earlier, is able to scan the road ahead a distance of 150ft, and the surrounding vehicles, pedestrians, and trees a distance of 360 ft. It rotates from 300-900 RPM depending on the resolution needed by the operators. This allows the device to map the environment with extreme accuracy [2].

Optical Scanners The optical scanner is the device that reads the incoming laser light, and measures the time of travel. As soon as the laser is shot out, the scanner starts detecting. When the light bounces back off an object it returns to the scanner. The device is then able to calculate how far away the object is using the equation: FIGURE 3 Distance=(Speed of light Time of flight)2 The Distance Equation used in LiDAR scanning [2].

A plane flies with an attached LiDAR device, scanning the ground for 3-D mapping [3].

Lasers The laser is the most important part of a LiDAR device, and one of the main advantages LiDAR has over radar technology. LiDAR utilizes high-energy, shorter-wavelength light, as opposed to lower energy and longer wavelength radio waves. This allows LiDAR to better reflect nonmetallic surfaces, such as humans [4]. This is partially due to the increased sensitivity of the higher energy waves, and partly due to the fact that having shorter wavelength

Gregory Jakubiec Brendan Mullinix

Each LiDAR device contains one scanner for each laser. In the case of the Velodyne HD system, 64 lasers and scanners are used [2]. around this by only searching for Doppler -shifted [8] Signals. This again works against the goal of mapping the entire environment, as the radar beam is tightly focused [8] on one area. This is where LiDAR excels. It is able to map entire areas very quickly and accurately. The lasers used do not encounter the same interference, so there can be no mistakes in measuring the distance to objects

Positioning Systems A key part of creating a detailed map of the environment is knowing where the LiDAR device is actually located in the larger environment, on a global level. LiDAR alone is able to scan every aspect of its surroundings, but without a precise reading of its own location, accurate maps cannot be created. This is done by Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS is a satellite-based navigation system [6], created by the US government. The GPS satellites send information about their location, in relation to the GPS device, and the position on the ground is then calculated. GPS systems allow the LIDAR system to keep track of its exact location at all times. This enables it to create highly detailed images of the correct location, and connect these scanned images to a broader geographic location.


Although LiDAR did not become commercially successful until the late 1970s the current number of uses for LiDAR technology systems are great . Mapping/Cartography The use of LiDAR scanning has been implemented in the creation of maps used alongside aerial photography [1]. LiDAR can assist in creating 3-D representations of all environments.

Urban planning Now that we know how LiDAR works, the main question is: why is it better than already existing technology such as radar and sonar? Radar and sonar had both been around for decades before LiDAR gained popularity. The major problems with sonar are relatively straightforward. First of all, sonar makes use of sound waves as opposed to radio or light waves, which travel much slower, as the speed of light is magnitudes faster than that of sound. Light travels at approximately 29980000 m/s, while sound only travels at approximately 343 m/s (in air at room temperature) [7]. This leads to a much lower frequency of measurements being taken, and therefore a much lower degree of accuracy. Radar, although much more accurate than sonar, still falls short of LiDAR in many aspects. A major difference between the two is the way radar detects objects. The radar device sends out radio waves that bounce off objects and return to the receiver. Radio waves are the largest in the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from 1cm to 1000m. They are also silent, invisible, and easily detectable. The radar set measures the time it takes for the echo to arrive, and also measures the Doppler Effect which allows radar to directly measure velocities (this is one of the few advantages radar does have over LiDAR) [8]. The problem with radar, however, is that there are many more opportunities for interference. When used on the ground the returning echo could be from any object such as trees, people, and animals, not just cars. This would be useful, but the many returning radio waves make it difficult to differentiate between objects. Some have found a way LiDAR is used to create Digital Surface Models [1] of the surface of the planet. Digital surface models are used in conjunction with city planners to create models of the proposed area.

Navigation LiDAR is becoming more and more popular as a guidance system for autonomous vehicles [1]. Because LiDAR uses high-speed pulses of laser light, data is provided in real-time [1]. This is the most attractive feature of LiDAR when used in autonomous vehicles. The real-time data feedback allows collision detection, and navigation like no other device.

Military and law enforcement One of the most well-known uses of LiDAR is in Police speed scanners. It has started to replace radar traffic guns because it has more accuracy, and does not face the same interference problems. LiDAR is also being used in the autonomy of robots and UAV drones for the military.

Gregory Jakubiec Brendan Mullinix

The direct application of LiDAR systems that we are most concerned with is its use in self-driving automobiles. Autonomous cars that utilize LiDAR generally have multiple LiDAR devices onboard, in addition to various other important devices used to sense their surroundings, such as radar, cameras and video systems. They also carry complex computer processing systems that analyze the data. It should be noted that LiDAR cant effectively navigate an autonomous car by itself. It must work in conjunction with various other devices, such as cameras and radar systems, as well as advanced computer hardware and software. There have been multiple specific methods of analyzing and utilizing the LiDAR data that have been experimented with, although the majority of them are heavily based on the concept of grid based processing (which will itself later be explained in much greater detail), in order to map environments in real time. FIGURE 4

LiDAR and Radar Integration In addition to LiDAR, many cars also have radar systems onboard. Although LiDAR can take measurements across larger ranges and distances, as well as operate much better in inclement weather, radar is able to provide the vehicle with more detailed information, due to the Doppler Effect. LiDAR technology is our main focus, although radar does have its place in autonomous cars as well, and is not to be forgotten. The most efficient autonomous car should utilize both [5]. When used to operate automobiles, LiDAR and traditional radar both serve their respective purposes. In order for a LiDAR machine to measure velocity, for instance, it must take different distance measurements at different times, and use them to compute the velocity of the object being tracked. This leads to a relatively inaccurate value of velocity, which in turn leads to an inaccurate value of acceleration. Radar, however, makes use of the Doppler Effect, which allows systems to measure the disturbances in the frequency of the return signal, which correspond directly to velocity of the point being measured. [5] Although LiDAR may not provide as accurate velocity information as radar systems, it does operate at much larger ranges and fields of view. This is essential to a vehicle moving through curves and around corners at high speeds [5]. The most efficient autonomous navigation system is one that utilizes both LiDAR and radar in harmony, covering the weaknesses and exploiting the strengths of both systems. Below is a diagram of one example of an autonomous car systems utilizing multiple types of sensing technology to navigate.

Diagram of Radar, and Ultrasonic collision detector sensors on a vehicle. [4]

Grid Based Processing There have been multiple methods of analyzing and utilizing the LiDAR data that have been experimented with, although the majority of them are heavily based on the concept of grid based processing. Grid based processing is a general technique used in autonomous cars to map their environments. The basic idea of this type of data processing is that very small amounts of data are each stored in very specific locations, corresponding to their actual physical locations, within a gigantic grid. This allows the system to quickly and efficiently locate and analyze whatever specific data may be relevant at the current moment, and then update all of it in real time. The environment around the car is divided up into small sections of grid within the computing system. The LiDAR and radar systems then collect data about each piece of this grid, returning it to the analysis software. Using the response from the different systems, a probability is determined for a specific grid square to be occupied, and assigned to that spot. With each of these small grid spaces being extremely small, a large grid environment is formed [9]. Conclusions can then be made by the computer regarding the shapes and textures of objects by analyzing the similarities and differences of clusters of grid squares to each other, and subsequently what types of objects they are most likely to be. This information is then used to navigate the car effectively throughout this constantly changing grid.

Gregory Jakubiec Brendan Mullinix

Road Tracking A major aspect of the creation of an autonomous automobile system is the method that the car uses to follow roads and stay within its lane. There are a few different methods of programming and designing an autonomous car to track and follow roads safely and efficiently. It is worth noting that this function is independent of the avoiding of unexpected obstacles, as well as other cars. This exists simply to allow the car to follow the road it is driving on. A major idea in the past has been the use of preprogrammed maps within the system, so that the car knows where the road is and where it isnt. This, however, is flawed and likely not efficient enough to allow autonomous cars to drive alongside passenger cars on its own, due to the simple fact that roads change. A built-in map, no matter how often it is updated, would simply not be able to detect all potential obstacles that a car may encounter, such as construction work, uninhabited areas where the cars map may not include, detours due to accidents, emergency situations, etc. For this reason, realtime sensing is now being more heavily integrated into these systems to provide a much safer and more effective road navigation system for these cars. These sensing systems work by using multiple onboard LiDAR machines. The data from these machines is then processed using grid based processing to map an environment, and is then further analyzed by a specific aspect of the computing system. This task is divided into two major functions: obstacle maps, and road edge detection. Obstacle maps serve the purpose of sensing obstacles around the car, such as curbs and railings, and sensing the changes in general texture of the ground. Once an obstacle map is formed, road edge detection is utilized on the map and the location, size and texture of the road its driving on. Obstacle mapping is done by the detection and analysis of various objects near the automobile through utilization of grid based processing. Each objects grid -based return signal is processed by the computer system using multiple algorithms and then assigned a level of urgency, from unseen, to lethal. If two or more of these algorithms disagree, the worst of the two is taken. A map is then made of the area around the car that can be analyzed in road edge detection.


Obstacle map representation of the space around a vehicle, with the reddest dots representing the most lethal obstacles [10] Road edge detection is performed based on the idea that the area directly outside of the road boundaries are less smooth, as well as slightly higher in the air, and likely containing more obstacles of specific types (i.e. less other moving cars, more trees and poles). Complex algorithmic analysis is performed based on these main assumptions and the location of the road itself is estimated in a manner similar a very complex data regression. The car can then safely navigate within the strict boundaries of the road [10].

Velocity Planning A crucial part of safe driving is the maintaining of an appropriate speed and the altering of that speed as is necessary, including starting and stopping. An autonomous driving system must do this correctly and safely in order to function on the road without endangering human life. Although human drivers tend to make decisions about speeding up and slowing down their vehicle almost instinctively, the adjustment of velocity must be carefully analyzed and planned when programming an autonomous car. The car must constantly adjust its velocity based on obstacles in its path, curvature of the road, street signs and traffic lights, and all of this is done through meticulous calculations by a computer [5]. In general the necessary acceleration or deceleration rate is calculated based on LiDAR measurements of distance and radar measurements of velocity of obstacles. One general example of this calculation is the usage of the derived kinematic equation:

Gregory Jakubiec Brendan Mullinix

FIGURE 6 more accurate than decisions made by a flawed human being, who certainly cannot compute the exact amount of force needed to stop a car in time to avoid a collision in real time. This is one of the major reasons why autonomous cars can be safer than user-driven cars.

This equation represents the relationship between initial and final velocities, distance, and acceleration, during constant acceleration [7]. Vf is the final velocity of the object that we are trying to achieve, Vo is the initial velocity of the object, a is the acceleration needed, and d is the distance the car is able to go before stopping. This equation can be solved for acceleration to give: FIGURE 7


While increasing efficiency and decreasing pollution are a great aspect of self-driving cars, the main goal is to increase the quality of life for those involved. People spend a great amount of time in their vehicles, and cutting down on the amount of work a person has to do while traveling, can help with stress levels. LiDAR can only help then, if it is guaranteed to make self-driving cars safe for everyday use. Even if the LiDAR cars become as safe for transportation as current vehicles, there are still a multitude of ethical issues surrounding the use of autonomous vehicles. One major controversy lies in deciding who is responsible if an accident occurs. Will the driver be blamed for doing nothing, or the car for faulty programming? This issue will likely be worked out in time by the democratic process and the making of new laws and regulations as needed as autonomous cars become more prominent in our society. Many more questions arise, such as what should happen in a life or death situation, when the car must decide your fate, against another driver. In any case, the possibilities are endless, but the chances for accidents are still very small. As autonomous vehicles have no driver involved, they possess better reflexes, and better awareness [11] than people. This is due to the fact that when an autonomous car makes a decision, it is made in a fraction of a second by means of precise calculations, which is far more accurate than a human made decision based on estimation and instinct in a relatively longer amount of time by a human being, which is the main reason why autonomous cars have vast potential to be far safer than human driven cars. This also means no distractions, and no drunk drivers. As of last year Googles self-driving cars have driven 300,000 miles without a single accident under computer control [12], this result of course being from a few autonomous cars surrounded by thousands of regular drivers. If all vehicles had LiDAR integration, the risk of accidents would be almost completely eliminated. With accidents down, less people are injured and vehicle repairs become less frequent. This saves not only money, but leaves as well. The only major threat then, is accidents initiated by the people driving their own cars. Another problem facing the cars is the issue of determining what will happen if a large-scale accident occurs. A large scale malfunction of autonomous cars is a legitimate possibility, especially in the very early stages of implementation. It is partially for this reason that it must be made completely sure that these cars are completely safe and heavily tested before being released to drive alongside other

This is a simple algebraic manipulation of fig. 6 [7]. This acceleration is generally caused by applying a force to some part of the car, calculated mainly using newtons second law of motion, , [7]. This means that the speed can be altered in real time by applying forces within the car, just like it is with a human driver, although much more exactly. The simplest situation to adjust a cars velocity for is a static obstacle within its path. In order to do this, the above equation can be used, except with zero taken for the final velocity. However, not all obstacles are stationary. Many, such as other cars on the road, are also moving. The same general relationships are used to calculate the following distance that the self-driving car should maintain behind the car in front of it, as well as how it should react to other cars on either side of it when changing lanes or swerving in the case of an emergency. As a general rule, the car must maintain a velocity slower than or equal to that of the car in front of them, which can be measured using LiDAR and radar [5]. Similar, more complex physical relationships are used to calculate the velocity the car must maintain when driving around curves. An autonomous vehicle must also alter its velocity based on other aspects of its surroundings, such as terrain, weather, and obeying traffic signals and signs. All of these things can be sensed using LiDAR, radar, GPS, the onboard camera system, or some combination of them, and then responded to by a pre-programmed algorithm within the cars computer system, in a fashion related to the one described above. All of this is done within a fraction of a second by a computer system connected to a LiDAR machine, using the exact mathematic relationships between distance, velocity, acceleration force, and other basic principles of physics. This method of altering a cars motion is much faster and

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cars. Something similar to this happened after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents with the nuclear industry, and it has only recently partly recovered from those disasters [13]. An event such as these would set the autonomous automobile industry back decades, and potentially destroy any chances it had at large scale implementation. Although the majority of relevant ethical concerns regard autonomous automobiles specifically, LiDAR also carries potential ethical problems in and of itself. For instance, many people are likely to be anxious of the widespread use of laser technology due to fears of lasers harming human beings or the environment [1]. These fears are unfounded, however, as the lasers utilized in these use a wavelength and frequency that has been tested and proven to be safe for humans and not damage eyes or other bodily functions. In order to successfully integrate these machines into our society without dissent, it must be made sure that any and all of the devices used are safe to humans, through extensive research and testing They should also be integrated into widespread use fairly slowly, so that society can adapt to their use as should occur naturally. Although LiDAR and autonomous cars do have their ethical complications for society, they are of a magnitude that can be overcome over time through responsible use of these systems. After all, the initial advent of cars themselves met plenty of dissent from the public, and now a majority of American families own vehicles, or at least make use of public transportation, and it has led to a far more advanced and efficient society, as will LiDAR and self-driving cars in years to come. consistently act as logically as possible and do whatever is possible to avoid an accident, or at least minimize the damage caused by one.


Judging by the current state of autonomous automobile technology, self-driving cars are a very real possibility for the relatively near future. Although still being heavily refined and researched, the required technology is certainly in existence. Google has successfully created a small group of functioning semi-autonomous cars, which have driven a total of around 140,000 miles around California, although all of these are done with a driver who can take control if necessary. Cars are approaching the point that smartphone platforms had reached just before the introduction of the Apple iPhone and the Motorola Android [4]. Implementation of self-driving vehicles into things such as the shipping business, would completely automate truck driving, eliminating human error and decreasing excess pollution. This will also allow for things to be shipped much cheaper, as drivers would not be utilized, but rather a small group of technicians to service the vehicles. In California, a bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 25, 2012 that will legally allow autonomous cars to travel on public roads along with user driven cars, once they have been certified as safe [12]. Sergey Brian, of Google has also said that it would take fewer years than he had fingers on his right hand for these cars to become available to the general public, although they are likely to be very expensive at first [12]. With advancements and promises such as these happening outside of the science and engineering world, as well the technological advances that continue to occur within the software and operation of autonomous automobiles and their use of LiDAR systems, it likely will not be very long before we begin to see these cars on the road alongside our own.

Pre-Crash Systems One important part of autonomous, as well as semiautonomous vehicle systems is pre-crash systems. These are systems that are implemented in the event of an impending crash to minimize the damage caused, and therefore help make these cars safer, for passengers that may ride in them, as well as decreasing the likelihood of accidents between non-passenger cars. These are already being used in user driven cars that are currently on the road in order to minimize injuries and fatalities to the passengers. Basically, the vehicle sense when an emergency is about to occur through LiDAR and radar and activates an emergency reaction sequence. The vehicle will then automatically react by tightening seatbelts, adjusting head restraints, and deploying airbags early, in order to protect all onboard passengers. It will also activate emergency steering and braking, as fast as physically possible, to avoid oncoming collisions, and set off emergency signals [9]. This is one major aspect of what makes self-driving cars safer than human driven cars. Humans will often panic during emergency situations, whereas autonomous cars can

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We would like to thank our co-chair, Traci Smith, for helping us write and revise our paper and pointing us in the right direction. We also would like to thank Red Bull, for helping us to stay awake for the long hours required to write this paper.

Chan Wei Hsu, Tsung Hua Hsu, Chun Hsiung Chen and Yung Yuan Kuo. (2010). A Path Planning Achievement of Car Following in Motion Control via LiDAR Sensing.