An interesting story questioning the safety of lidar systems caught my eyes. This technology could potentially cause damage to human eyes, while other types could be hurting cameras that are used by autonomous cars for safe operation (not to mention cameras used by traffic equipment, cell phones, and professional photography).
Lidar uses light (from lasers) to get a picture of its surroundings the same way that radar uses radio waves. By sweeping around with a laser that fires weak pulses of light and then seeing what reflections come back, an autonomous vehicle can “see” other vehicles, buildings, pedestrians, and other things that it must be aware of on the road.
Tesla doesn’t use lidar for autopilot or the in-development Full Self Driving option, instead depending on cameras alone for computer vision.
Most other organizations use lidar, and often have unsightly spinning “salad shooter” type things on the vehicle’s roof and sides.
The possible safety problem comes from the ability of a laser to damage eyes and cameras.
A common lidar frequency is 905 nanometers. At that frequency, too much power can temporarily or even permanently blind a human eye.
For that reason, governments have set power limits to keep them below what theoretically can harm us. At 1550 nanometers, it’s much more difficult for lidar to penetrate the human eye.
Before I conclude that this could be a big problem,please keep in mind that presently I have limited data. Needless to say, that’s not enough to make for conclusive proof that lidar units are dangerous.
Unfortunately, the technology hasn’t been widely deployed in the real world and not many studies have been done to determine all of the potential risk but this is definitely an issue that needs further scrutiny.
Reference- National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Truckinginfo.com story, Clean Technica