Continental develops next-generation 3D lidar environment model for automated driving


Continental is working on the next generation of an environment model that will deliver a seamless, true-to-life, 360° view of the entire vehicle’s surroundings – a basic requirement for sophisticated advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automated driving.

To allow automated vehicles to assume control from drivers, the vehicle must continuously acquire, process and interpret data, while also acquiring and building up contextual knowledge. This is the only way to achieve sophisticated levels of automated driving that are able to master anything from straightforward freeway driving to the highly complex urban environment. A reliable environment model requires a range of information, such as other traffic, static objects, road boundaries, the vehicle’s precise location, and traffic control measures. Continental’s solution is the High Resolution 3D Flash Lidar unit, which captures and processes real-time 3D machine vision and does not contain mechanical components.

Compared with many scanner components currently in use, the High Resolution 3D Flash Lidar comprises just two key components: a laser as a transmission source that illuminates the vehicle surroundings up to distances of 656ft (200m) and a highly integrated receptor chip that is capable of recording the laser pulse transit time, which corresponds to the range from the objects. This simple yet highly efficient method allows highly accurate and distortion-free images of the surroundings to be generated with every laser flash.

“The technology provides a significantly more comprehensive and detailed 3D view of the entire vehicle surroundings, both during the day and at night, and works reliably even in adverse weather conditions,” explained Arnaud Lagandré, head of Continental’s 3D Flash Lidar segment. “A complete 3D model of the vehicle surroundings nearby or over 200m away and as close as a few centimeters, is constructed in just 1.32 microseconds, 30 times per second. The low complexity and high industrial feasibility mean that we can efficiently install multiple sensors all around the vehicle, enabling us to generate complete, real-time, 360° images of the vehicle surroundings.”

Information from the 3D lidar system is fed to Continental’s new Assisted & Automated Driving Control Unit (ADCU), which is used for evaluating and interpreting the acquired data, and ultimately constructing a comprehensive surroundings model. It plays a key role in interconnecting electronic chassis and safety systems.

Michael Zydek, head of the ADCU product group at Continental, said, “The ADCU is a central element for implementing the required functional safety architecture and, at the same time, a host for the central environment descriptions and driving functions needed for automated driving. During development, we distinguish between assisted and automated driving control units. The first is a scalable control unit module for advanced driver assistance systems that, for each equipment level, offers a complete, cost-optimized package comprising sensors and a control unit. The control unit for automated driving is a powerful computer that meets the requirements of highly automated driving and focuses on specific digital structures for the environment model, the computer for ASIL D, and real-time performance.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).