What it is: LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, which is used to measure distances using light.
Apple recently patented a new LiDAR system because current sensing techniques could suffer from “excessive power consumption, limited x-y resolution, limited depth resolution or accuracy, limited frame rate, and long product development cycles,” according to the patent. Presumably Apple’s patent will overcome problems with current LiDAR devices and hopefully be cheaper to produce as well.
One purpose for LiDAR could be for detecting obstacles at a distance. Since Apple has long been rumored to be testing a self-driving car, LiDAR technology would be crucial to help the vehicle navigate around obstacles such as pedestrians and other cars on the road. LiDAR is crucial to detecting nearby objects, which makes it perfectly suited for self-driving cars, drones, and other autonomous objects that need to avoid crashing into something.
LiDAR might be useful as a safety feature as well. Just as most cars now have anti-locking brakes, future cars may have LiDAR technology to automatically brake when detecting obstacles up ahead. Humans might still drive cars, but with LiDAR technology, they can be safer drivers since the LiDAR sensors can warn drivers when they’re too close or simply slam on the brakes if the driver fails to do so.
The future of LiDAR may not be limited to self-driving cars but to additional safety features for any car. Whatever Apple plans to do with its LiDAR patent, hopefully it will be put to good use to help make everyone’s life a little better somehow.