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Lidar Technology Making Smart Cities a Reality
Dec 06, 2019 | By Jon Barad, Vice President of Business Development

Cities worldwide are looking to improve the lives of their citizens through technology.

A smart city uses information and communications technologies to enhance its livability, workability and sustainability, according to the Smart Cities Council. The starting point is collecting data through sensors and systems in order to measure and monitor conditions throughout the city. That collected data can then be analyzed and turned into intelligence that can assist people and machines to take actions and make more informed decisions.  

The range of applications that are considered smart city solutions is vast. A week doesn’t go by around here at Velodyne without learning about a new application that I can’t wait to see implemented to make all of our lives easier and safer.

Below are a few of my favorite smart city applications that are emerging with the use of lidar:

Pedestrian Safety. Pedestrian deaths keep rising on roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, NHTSA goes onto report that 75 percent of pedestrian traffic deaths occur at night. Fortunately, the use of lidar technology enables detection, tracking and counting of pedestrians, and it delivers these capabilities whether it’s day or night. 

Here is a great example of a smart crosswalk that was built in collaboration with Seoul Robotics, using Velodyne lidar:

As you can see, each individual pedestrian is being tracked and analyzed to determine speed, direction and location within the crosswalk. This smart intersection will be able to automatically adjust the traffic light control systems to improve pedestrian safety, including extending the walk sign for large groups. 

Retail Analytics. I want to say one word to you. Just one word…. There’s a great future in… analytics. Businesses and cities can improve revenue and infrastructure by analyzing foot traffic to learn about traffic patterns, congregation areas, congestion points and more.  Knowing how people flow through a building and where they stop along the way is useful to designers, architects and city planners. Many retailers are exploring use of WiFi, cell phone or camera technologies to track pedestrians and shoppers. But all of these technologies struggle with inaccuracies and are also invasive to one’s privacy. Lidar, on the other hand, doesn’t require any interaction with a person’s cell phone, can accurately track people in crowded areas and preserves privacy.

Velodyne is currently involved in a number of development efforts around the world to provide governments and businesses with lidar-based analytics.  Stay tuned!

Vehicle Traffic Management. We’ve all been there: you’re sitting in your car at a stop light and you’re the only car at the intersection waiting for the light to turn!  Smart technology can connect city road infrastructure and vehicles to improve mobility and safety. Lidar technology monitors traffic, including all kinds of vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles, capturing millions of data points in real time. The data can be communicated directly to light control systems to create an optimal traffic flow based on current road conditions. With these advances, you’ll be on your way like never before!

Montreal-based Blue City Technology is working on a great solution and beginning to install units both in Canada and the US. Here is a post we did with Blue City, and below you can see an example of the Blue City system in action. Each person and vehicle are tracked and counted as they enter the intersection.  Really powerful stuff!

V2X Communications. Vehicles continue to become more connected; in smart cities, they will be connected not only to other vehicles, but also the infrastructure. V2X, “vehicle to everything,” is a term for a car’s communication system that taps sensors and other data sources to transmit and receive information. Lidar technology equipped on a car is constantly capturing data about the vehicle and its surroundings that can be transmitted to provide current road conditions to other vehicles and roadway systems. 

One such program that is being tested in Australia is with the government of Victoria. Lidar will be fitted at an intersection in Melbourne to collect data on all crashes and near misses. The technology will also provide real-time warnings of potential hazards to vehicles fitted with connected technology. See it in action here

Automated Speed Traps. Yes, law enforcement is also looking at ways to improve and automate their abilities in the smart city, and it’s not just about running red lights. In 2017, speeding was a contributing factor in 26 percent of all traffic fatalities according to NHTSA. As police units often have higher priorities for their officers than to sit them on the side of the road issuing tickets, it stands to reason that automating ticketing would be a great endeavor, especially for the safety of roadway users.  

PARIFEX, an engineering company specializing in the specification of ICSS (Integrated Control and Safety Systems) has also developed a line of highly innovative speed control systems. Based on Velodyne’s advanced lidar sensor and image capture technologies, PARIFEX systems offer an effective way of improving road safety, by monitoring speed, following distance and even lane usage. At present, some 400 PARIFEX solutions are deployed in France.

It is exciting to consider the future in this way! In order to build these smart city applications, lidar is quickly emerging in this space as a sensor that delivers a combination of capabilities that offer unique value to this industry. Lidar has become a real driver, enabling municipal governments and businesses to create more livable, responsive environments for their citizens and customers. Come join us to build a smarter and more livable world–the possibilities are endless.

Let us know what other ideas you have!

For Velodyne Lidar products click HERE.

About Velodyne Lidar

Velodyne provides smart, powerful lidar solutions for autonomy and driver assistance. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Velodyne is known worldwide for its portfolio of breakthrough lidar sensor technologies. Velodyne’s Founder, David Hall, invented real-time surround view lidar systems in 2005 as part of Velodyne Acoustics. Mr. Hall’s invention revolutionized perception and autonomy for automotive, new mobility, mapping, robotics, and security. Velodyne’s high-performance product line includes a broad range of sensing solutions, including the cost-effective Puck™, the versatile Ultra Puck™, the autonomy-advancing Alpha Prime™, the ADAS-optimized Velarray™ and the groundbreaking software for driver assistance, Vella™.

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