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Monday - January 24, 2022

Robust Components Power Future Autonomous Cars

In the not so distant future, we will be able to easily hail a driverless taxi or shared autonomous vehicle with a smartphone. The future of mobility promises more convenience and autonomy than we could ever imagine. No more relying on bus or train schedules – not to mention their sometimes unpredictable service – to deliver us from point A to B. Autonomous vehicles, and the technology that drives them, are capable of making this dream a reality. In order to function properly, these cars need to be equipped with highly reliable components and systems along with redundant mechanisms when needed.

Driverless cars come outfitted with a plethora of sensors and processing equipment that essentially act as the vehicle’s brain. It takes in information about the surrounding environment, analyzes the data, and tells the vehicle how to respond. This all needs to happen in real time, as any delay could result in severe consequences. One of the sensors used in autonomous cars is Lidar, which stands for “light detection and ranging” technology. Think of Lidar as the eyes of the vehicle; this sensor is able to compile a comprehensive 3D map of everything surrounding the car. Many OEMs view this technology as essential to developing autonomous cars that meet the highest safety requirements.

Design Wins for Mechanical Lidar

Two main types of Lidar exist today, mechanical and solid state, with each offering distinct advantages and drawbacks. Solid state Lidar is built on a chip with no moving parts, and is capable of either single flash or phased array transmission. While this design can be more cost effective and reliable, the technology is still in it’s infancy and cannot yet produce the resolution and range needed for autonomous driving.

Within the mechanical category, it is possible to segment further by the type of mechanism used to drive the motion. Traditional scanning involves mechanically rotating the system, and typically results in a long-range, 360 degree field-of-view (FOV). Microelectromechanical-based (MEMS) lidar uses an actuator to drive a tiny mirror which steers the laser beam. The downside to Lidar with moving components is their often bulky size and potential mechanical failure points.

According to Yole Development, traditional mechanical scanning Lidar accounts for 69% of new design wins. It seems, for the time being, that OEMs view mechanical Lidar as the most reliable and robust solution for ADAS and next generation autonomous vehicles.

Our History in the Automotive Industry

MinebeaMitsumi has been developing automotive grade components for over 50 years, and we understand how critical safety is for our customers. Our automotive motors and bearings are produced in ISO/TS 16949 certified factories with cutting edge equipment that delivers consistent quality and repeatability at high volumes. We continue to research and design new solutions to meet the unique needs of our OEM and Tier 1 customers, such as new materials that can withstand wider operating temperature ranges. Our engineering team is always looking for new challenges – reach out to learn more about our custom design capabilities.

Christian Voegerl
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