Race is on to create smarter sensors for robot cars

To drive a car, you need to see the world around you. But computers are blind, so autonomous cars must rely on other ways to perceive their surroundings. Lidar sensors, a laser form of radar, have emerged as a powerful way for robot cars to navigate.Lidar is so crucial to the self-driving industry that dozens of companies have sprung up in the past year to develop the sensors. It stands at the heart of the Waymo vs. Uber lawsuit, with Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, alleging that ride-hailing company Uber stole its lidar designs, potentially costing it billions.
“Lidar helps cars see very fine-grained information about what the world looks like,” said Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and a leading autonomous-vehicles researcher.