With the introduction of Argo Lidar, the global self-driving technology company Argo AI has overcome the limitations preventing most competitors from commercializing autonomous delivery and ride-hail services. By detecting the most difficult-to-see objects from farther away and with more precision, the Argo Self-Driving System (SDS) is capable of 360-degrees awareness day or night and can safely drive on busy city streets, suburban neighborhoods, and now at highway speeds. These capabilities are essential for enabling services that will bring the promise of autonomous vehicles to life for millions of people.
This breakthrough in autonomous vehicle technology was enabled by Argo’s 2017 acquisition of a company developing an innovative form of long range lidar. The result is a sensor believed to be the industry’s longest-distance sensing range capability of 400 meters, with dark-object detection for safe highway driving. Argo Lidar also offers ultra-high resolution perception, providing the photorealistic imaging required to identify small objects for safe operation on complex city streets.
“Argo Lidar takes us to a whole new level of self-driving technology, unlocking our ability to power both delivery and ride-hail services,” said Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI. “The Argo Self-Driving System delivers the safety, scale and service experience that businesses want and their customers demand, especially coming out of the pandemic.”
Ready to Scale
The Argo SDS capabilities, combined with the company’s fleet dispatch infrastructure and operations experience, translate into clear advantages when it comes to commercialization:
- Safe operations in cities, suburbs, and on highways enables connections from warehouses to urban and suburban routes for middle- and last-mile delivery, or service to the most in-demand ride-hailing routes to and from airports;
- Scaled operations based on extensive testing and development in six U.S. cities, with additional cities coming online this year, as well as expansion into Europe;
- Service experience, including address-to-address routing within urban and suburban areas of operation, maximizing effectiveness for deliveries or commuters.
Through deep collaboration with automotive partners Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen in the technology integration and development of high-quality, commercial-grade self-driving vehicles, Argo can meet the durability requirements for maximizing commercial fleet uptime and improving operations and customer satisfaction.
“We have unparalleled autonomous driving technology and operations capabilities,” continues Salesky. “Proving out these abilities every day, across six cities from our nation’s capital to Miami to Silicon Valley, we are ready to enable the next phase of growth for delivery, retail, and ride-sharing partners.”
Alongside custom-designed sensors and high-performance computing, Argo Lidar is the centerpiece of the Argo SDS. It is designed to handle the most complex aspects of human driving, such as:
- Seeing the darkest of black-painted vehicles—those that reflect less than 1% of light even at long range and in the pitch blackness of night
- Safely navigating left-hand turns onto roads with oncoming high-speed traffic by utilizing a 360° field of view
- Managing instant transitions from darkness to bright light, such as when entering and leaving a tunnel, which often temporarily blind human drivers
- Distinguishing small, moving objects such as animals from vegetation and static objects
The innovation behind Argo Lidar is known as “Geiger-mode” sensing. Argo AI’s proprietary Geiger-mode lidar has the ability to detect the smallest particle of light—a single photon—and is key to sensing objects with low reflectivity. This, combined with higher-wavelength operation above 1400 nanometers, gives Argo Lidar its unique capabilities, including longer-range, higher-resolution, lower-reflectivity detection and full 360° field of view—all from a single sensor.
The Argo AI Hardware Development team is working with a highly experienced contract manufacturer for series production of the new lidar sensor. The first batch of Argo Lidar sensors is already supporting on-road testing of Argo’s self-driving test vehicle fleet. Soon, volume production plans with Ford and Volkswagen will lead to the widespread commercialization of autonomous delivery and ride hail services