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Velodyne's expertise with laser distance measurement started by participating in the 2005 Grand Challenge sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). A race for autonomous vehicles across the Mojave desert, DARPA's goal was to stimulate autonomous vehicle technology development for both military and commercial applications. Velodyne founders Dave and Bruce Hall entered the competition as Team DAD (Digital Audio Drive), traveling 6.2 miles in the first event and 25 miles in the second. The team developed technology for visualizing the environment, first using a dual video camera approach and later developing the laser-based system that laid the foundation for Velodyne's current products. The first Velodyne LIDAR scanner was about 30 inches in diameter and weighed close to 100 lbs. Choosing to commercialize the LIDAR scanner instead of competing in subsequent challenge events, Velodyne was able to dramatically reduce the sensor's size and weight while also improving performance. Velodyne's HDL-64E sensor was the primary means of terrain map construction and obstacle detection for all the top DARPA Urban Challenge teams in 2007 and used by five out of six of the finishing teams, including the winning and second place teams. In fact, some teams relied exclusively on the HDL-64E for the information about the environment used to navigate an autonomous vehicle through a simulated urban environment.

Milestones

1983 - Velodyne Acoustics formed when David Hall patents servo control for loudspeakers.
1995 - David Hall patents Class D 97% efficient amplifier. Velodyne subwoofers are recognized worldwide as best-in-class.
2000 - 2001 - Dave and Bruce Hall participate in BattleBots®, Robotica®, and Robot Wars® competitions.
2004 - Team Digital Auto Drive (DAD) competes in the first DARPA Grand Challenge using stereo-vision technology. The vehicle survives 6.0 miles, finishing third.
2005 - Team DAD enters the second Grand Challenge using 64-element LIDAR technology. A steering control board failure ends their race at 25 miles, finishing 11th of all finishers. Five vehicles complete the race, with Stanford Racing team winning the event.
2006 - Velodyne offers a more compact version of its 64 element LIDAR scanner - the HDL-64E - for sale. Top Grand Challenge teams immediately place orders. Team DAD declines to enter the next DARPA Urban Challenge event, focusing instead on supplying LIDAR scanners to all top teams.
2007 - The HDL-64E was used by five out of six of the finishing teams at the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, including the winning and second place teams.
2008 - The HDL-64E S2 Series 2 sensor is introduced.
2010 - Velodyne launches the HDL-32E.


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