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Autonomous Cars and the Use of Lidar

Home » Autonomous Cars and the Use of Lidar
September 30, 2017
Edward Smith


Autonomous Cars and the Use of Lidar

I’m Ed Smith, a car accident lawyer in Fresno. Autonomous cars no longer just appear in futuristic movies. They are rapidly evolving and soon will be a common fixture on the roads and in our garages. There are a few things that need to be tweaked to accommodate the real world of driving, and one of them is called lidar.

What Is Lidar?

Lidar is a way of mapping out the environment that an autonomous car will travel through. It is an abbreviation for light detection and ranging. In short, it is a system of lasers that emit beams every second, bouncing off objects in the laser’s path. The time it takes for the laser to reach the object produces data, enabling the vehicle’s software to build a map of the area. By using this map or point cloud, the car is able to differentiate between trees, other cars, pedestrians or bicyclists. This technology works when it is dark, a problem if the car uses only cameras and radar, and the resolution is better even in bright sunlight. The new point cloud is compared to a reference map stored in the software, making it possible to see if anything is different from former mappings.


Lidar works the way it is told to work, emitting directional beams according to plan and configuration ingrained in the software. The data it produces is plentiful, particularly when several lidar units are used covering everything whether at long distances or short. This information must be interpreted to create maps the car can use and is an important part of what the software does.

Weather and Autonomous Cars

Whether it’s radar such as Telsa uses or lidar, autonomous cars must be able to detect landmarks such as trees or pedestrians. One problem is inclement weather such as snow. Think about it: human drivers in a snowstorm when visibility is low use markers, at least in part, to map out their path. Autonomous cars are learning to do the same thing. Maps are being made of areas the car will use (not all areas obviously), and the software incorporates the maps in the same way humans use markers in a heavy snowstorm. If the car is acquainted with an area, it is able to determine what path to take and what new obstacles are in the way, such as a snowbound vehicle.

Software Defects

If an autonomous car, without human interaction, is involved in a crash, who is negligent? The answer is the software. If the software design negligently makes the wrong decision, the software’s design is fallible not the human along for the ride. While the result of car accidents will remain the same – people will be have traumatic brain injuries or blunt abdominal trauma or die –  the liability will switch from the driver to the maker of the software the autonomous vehicle uses and the manufacturer that incorporated it.

Crashes and Injuries in Autonomous Vehicles

According to experts at the University of Michigan, all autonomous crashes that occurred in their study involved other motor vehicles. This is unlike those of conventional cars, where 32 percent of the crashes involved stationary fixed objects and non-fixed ones in addition to other motor vehicles. Crash types with autonomous cars were: rear-end crashes by 72.7 percent, sideswipes at 18.2 percent, and the remaining 9.1 percent were crashes on an angle. Alternately, conventional crashes were 48.3 percent rear-end crashes, head on at 3.6 percent, sideswipes at 16.7 percent and angle crashes at 31.4 percent.

Both types of vehicles caused damage alone at close to the same amount with self-driving cars being 10 percent higher. Conventional vehicles had 0.5 percent fatal crashes, while autonomous cars had none. The injury rate was higher in self-driving vehicles, however, the severity of injuries was higher in conventional cars.

Fresno Car Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a car accident lawyer in Fresno. Autonomous cars have many life-saving aspects such as taking over when an intoxicated driver needs to head home. However, their development is still ongoing, and despite whether a conventional or self-driving vehicle is used, accidents will happen. Getting in an accident or losing a loved one due to one, is a harrowing time for anyone. I am available to provide friendly, free legal advice. Just call me at (559) 337-7676 or (800) 404-5400.

I’ve practiced law in California since 1982 and during that time have come to know many Fresno and Northern Californians that have become clients and friends. Together we have dealt with wrongful death claims, amputations and other catastrophic injuries. To understand how I have found winning solutions to their cases, take a look at the settlements and verdicts I have won and the reason for my membership at www.milliondollar

When you have suffered an accident, financial and emotional upset is common along with the burden of getting well or losing someone you loved. The last thing you need is to spend a lot of time finding legal help. It’s easy to see what former clients have had to say about me. Just click Google, Avvo and Yelp.

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