Australian startup’s LiDAR gives driver-less cars better eyes

Sydney-based startup, Baraja, is offering a solution to autonomous car manufacturers, that the company says solves the scalability, reliability, and performance issues they have faced in the past.

Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan LiDAR (light detection and ranging) uses prism-like optics and shifting wavelengths of light to create powerful eyes for autonomous vehicles.

Traditional LiDAR scans the roadway by physically rotating lasers or using moving mirrors to steer the light using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). These moving parts have unresolved reliability problems in vehicles due to constant vibration and shock. Delicate components fail or require costly over-engineering to house and protect.

These legacy scanning methods inject cost, reliability and performance issues, and contribute to the unwieldy appearance and vehicle integration difficulties of existing LiDAR solutions. These limitations have become a serious bottleneck to the mass deployment of self-driving cars.

Baraja’s compact, modular “eyes” connect via fibre optics and deliver the high level of performance demanded by the autonomous vehicle industry using off-the-shelf components—like optical-grade silica-glass found in every smartphone camera and telecom-grade lasers that power the internet. These components maximise automotive reliability and the ability to mass produce the technology for fleets while enabling long-term cost benefits.

Baraja, which only came out of stealth mode last week, borrows its unique LiDAR technology from the telecom industry, the company’s co-founder and CTO Cibby Pulikkaseril explained to Manufacturers’ Monthly.

Pulikkaseril and Baraja CEO and co-founder Federico Collarte met while developing multicolour lasers at an optics company in Sydney. These lasers are used for wavelength-division multiplexing, which enables telecommunications companies to send or receive multiple colours of light on a single fibre-optic cable—the more bandwidth the better.

Pulikkaseril said the technology is ground-breaking for driver-less vehicles. “The laser we are using comes from the teelcom industry. Noone had ever used it for LiDAR. Every time I go to San Francisco, no body in the US can believe that the winning strategy could actually come from Australia,” Pulikkaseril said.

Pulikkaseril and Collarte raised money in 2016 and rented labs at CSIRO Lindfield, where they put together a team. to make some prototypes.

“We have now successfully made a product that the customers are very excited about and they want to integrate it into their cars,” said Pulikkaseril.

“We expect that within five years, we will see cars on the street that have our LiDAR,” he said.

Baraja is headquartered in Sydney, Australia, with offices in San Francisco and China. The company is currently expanding throughout Asia and Europe.