German automotive supplier Robert Bosch develops affordable mass market Lidar technology

On Thursday, German automotive supplier Robert Bosch stated, it has developed a sensor that allows cars to “see” the road in three-dimensions.

The development could potentially lower the cost of technology and speed up the development of self-driving vehicles.

In a statement, privately-held Bosch said, its internally-developed lidar sensor, which it will showcase at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, covers both long and close ranges on highways and in the city.

The sensor will work in conjunction with its camera and radar technologies.

Lidar technology, is a relatively younger technology that uses light-based sensors to generate a 3D view of the road. In its current form, it is too expensive for mass market usage, but if a cost effective lidar sensor were to be developed, it could provide more depth data and would allow more accurate gauging of distances by self-driving cars of road users, including pedestrians.

Although numerous start-ups are working on lidar technology, the involvement of Bosche, a large and trusted supplier is likely to help speed up adoption of the technology.

“Bosch is making automated driving a viable possibility in the first place,” said Harald Kroeger, Bosch’s management board member in a statement.

Although lidar devices were initially bulky and had to be placed on the roof of cars, lidar developers have transitioned to more compact solid-state devices which now can be mounted onto other parts, such as near the headlights. These now sell for less than $10,000 in limited quantities. In order for them to be commercially viable, they will have to sell for $200.

Bosch did not provide the pricing, timeline, or technology details for its lidar sensor. The company’s spokesman however disclosed that it is working on making the sensors “production ready” and that its focus is on “affordable mass market” technology.

The spokesman declined to say whether Bosch already had auto customers for the lidar sensor.

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