Picture of a scanner

The 5 Misconceptions About LiDAR Technology

LiDAR technology is significantly enhancing various sectors with its valuable insights. Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions surrounding this innovative tool.

Feb 13, 2024
Charlotte Simon

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method, and has recently gained much attention as an innovative tool.

This technology has changed how we collect and analyze data, providing accurate and precise measurements for multiple applications.

Despite its growing popularity, there has also been a spread of misleading information and misconceptions about LiDAR technology.

Let's understand LiDAR technology better and use it to its full potential.

1. The Complexity of  LiDAR Technology

There is a belief that this technology can be difficult to understand due to its complexity.

The technology is complicated, but its basic principles are easy to understand.

LiDAR measures distance using light. It emits a laser pulse that bounces off an object and returns to the sensor. This process resembles how animals like bats and dolphins use sound to find prey.

How lidar works using laser pulses
A single laser pulse is used to measure the distance between the sensor and the object. Typical LiDARs emit millions of these pulses per second.
Understanding the basics of 3D LiDAR Technology
Light Detection and Ranging, also known as LiDAR, is a technology for remote sensing that is used to measure distances in an environment.

2. Still New and Developing

Industries used LiDAR since the 1960s initially for high-resolution short-range detection in situations where radar was not capable.

In the 1970s, experiments started with the idea of measuring the distance to the Earth's surface. During the Apollo 15 mission, the astronauts used it to map the moon's surface. During the 1990s and 2000s, the sensors mapped terrain and created digital elevation models.

In modern times, LiDAR technology has proven useful in multiple industries.

While innovations are still in development, the technology is already widely adopted, with current performance exceeding the needs of many use cases.

For example, Outsight has deployed solutions in many industries, and deployed challenging projects with hundreds of LiDAR devices on the same premises, all working in real-time.  

3. Only Used in Autonomous Vehicles

LiDAR technology is often associated only with self-driving cars, as this market fueled significant investments.  

However, there are many uses for it in different industries. 

The benefits of the technology are not solely for automotive but for PFM (People Flow Monitoring), ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems), public safety, and many more.

Various industries using laser scanning technology
Various usage of LiDAR in different industries
The Top 101 LiDAR applications
Anything that moves, watches moving things, or needs to measure volumes may use LiDAR to become smarter, more effective, and safer.Continue reading to learn more (and grab a coffee, because the list is long...).You’ll be pleasantly surprised by a few of these applications.

In fact, applications outside automotive represent the vast majority of the LiDAR market:

63% of 2027 LiDAR Applications Will Be Outside Automotive
By 2027, 63% of the LiDAR market—hardware and software—will be outside of the automobile industry, according to the Yole Group. Read on to discover how.

4. LiDAR Works like Cameras

While 2D cameras are great for gathering high-resolution colored images, they lack the measuring abilities that LiDAR can provide.

LiDAR can accurately measure the shape, speed, volume, distance, and object size.
The unique benefits that 3D lidars have over 2D cameras
LiDAR beats Cameras in gathering Spatial Information

LiDAR emits its own light, which distinguishes it from cameras that require external light to function. As a result, LiDAR can operate effectively in any lighting condition, including direct sunlight and total darkness.

 Key capabilities that make this technology a game-changer
LiDAR technology has many unique advantages

With the camera's facial recognition capabilities, there are concerns about personal privacy and data security.

LiDAR devices don't capture images. Instead, they perceive a three-dimensional representation called a point cloud, which does not contain personal information or identification.

A 3D LiDAR scan of individuals shown in point-cloud format
A 3D LiDAR scan of individuals
Anonymous vs. Anonymized: learn the difference
Understanding Anonymity in Sensor Data: discover the inherent privacy characteristics of each type of Sensor data and the potential risks associated with anonymizing sensitive information

5. LiDAR is Expensive

In the early days of Self-Driving Cars and R&D phases LiDAR used to be very expensive.  

Thanks to the significant investment in dozens of different LiDAR manufacturers and the associated fierce competition, the hardware cost is now getting close to that of high-end Camera devices, while the performance has greatly increased.

infographic chart showing the price of Lidar
LiDAR prices have decreased dramatically while performance has greatly increased

What's even more important than the cost is that when used for PFM (People Flow Monitoring) and Vehicle traffic measurement, LiDAR devices require fewer units to cover an area compared to cameras.

The ratio can range between 3 and 10 times less per square meter, depending on the specific setting. This leads do much lower wiring, installation, networking, and processing costs. 

Conclusion

The limitations of LiDAR technology are a thing of the past, thanks to both recent breakthroughs in software development and advancements in hardware capabilities, which have become more affordable and accessible in recent times.

With these improvements, LiDAR data can now be leveraged in ways that were previously impossible, providing valuable insights and improving efficiency across various industries


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