Shauna McIntyre, CEO
It’s no longer a secret that autonomous vehicles and assisted driving technologies are revolutionizing the automobile industry. Today, most automakers are propelling their operations to take advantage of innovative technologies to prove their excellence in the autonomous and assisted driving space and stay ahead of the competition. However, with the existing radar and camera-based systems alone proving to be subpar to meet the current safety needs, they require more efficient systems like LiDAR to provide accurate data for improved performance.
Scott Burroughs, a photonics expert who holds over three decades of experience in semiconductors and optics, envisaged this need almost a decade ago. He then set out on a mission to develop a robust LiDAR solution with his partner, Russ Kanjorski. Discerning the value of micro-transfer printing technology — which redefined the concentrated photovoltaic industry — the duo had an epiphany that it can serve as a value-added solid-state alternative for scanning-based and mechanical moving automotive LiDAR systems. To materialize their dream of revolutionizing the automotive 3D vision space, they established Sense Photonics, a high-tech 3D sensor company, in 2016.
Burroughs’ and Kanjorski’s quest to push the boundaries of innovation soon gave birth to first-of-its-kind solid-state flash LiDAR that uses a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) array and Time of Flight (TOF) detector array to create 3D vision. Though it was a ground-breaking technology, they were never satisfied with what they created and focused on augmenting its capabilities by assembling a team of the most creative technical minds.
In 2018, they hired a team of some of the top minds working in generic CMOS Single-Photon-Avalanche-Diodes (SPADs) — to replace their off-the-shelf indirect TOF detectors with SPAD arrays that offer unrivaled capabilities over conventional methods. In the years that followed, Sense Photonics welcomed several experts, including Prof. Robert Henderson from the University of Edinburgh with extensive experience in SPAD technology, to provide deep technical advice for their operation.
“With a proven architecture built on patented, scalable VCSEL and SPAD technology, our solution has the ability to produce high density 3D data, helping clients outrun the competition with exponential advancements in assisted and automated driving,” says Shauna McIntyre, the CEO of Sense Photonics. On a mission to democratize 3D vision for a safer, greener, and more productive world, Sense Photonics is creating a new paradigm with its proprietary cost-effective flash LiDAR technology. “Our state-of-the-art LiDAR sensor uses laser light to create a data-rich 3D view of the road and its environment for autonomous and assisted vehicles to safely navigate the road ahead,” adds Shauna. “This way, they accurately perceive the environment, predict the behavior of pedestrians and fellow vehicles, and help navigate roads safely.”
Sense Photonics’ LiDAR platform acts as a camera and leverages global shutter acquisition to produce unrivaled high-resolution 3D vision. It’s designed with the capability to capture precise information up to 200 meters away for 10 percent reflective targets in full sunlight and eliminate all motion blur and data gaps. The solution also offers a wide field of view and a stepped field of view, where the same sensor architecture can be used for all short, mid, and long-range sensors with a simple change in optics. As a result, it is fast becoming the go-to solution for automobile manufacturers, helping them with vehicle summoning, parking assist, lane assist, highway autopilot, and eventually addressing the long-awaited autonomous driving.
What gives Sense Photonics an extra edge is its solution’s solid-state design that offers the durability, reliability, and affordability needed for automotive series production programs. With the laser built on GaAs and the receiver built on silicon, the company helps OEMs facilitate their mass production endeavors rapidly by meeting their quality and cost reduction requirements. Moreover, the flexible platform architecture was designed to easily adapt to various form-factors and sensor configurations to provide unrivaled 3D output and vehicle design freedoms.
With such a powerful, future-proof solution, Sense Photonics is anticipating a progressive growth trajectory down the line. Today, the company has already inked a development partnership with a global Detroit-based OEM and is focusing on ruggedization, functional safety, miniaturization, and driving down the cost curve. Moving ahead, it intends to extend its footprint into other industry verticals, helping them to augment its operations with its novel flash LiDAR technology. “We’re now redirecting our entire focus on R&D and production to further enhance the capabilities of our solution instead of spending our resources on marketing,” concludes Shauna.