How is FMCW the game-changer for autonomous driving?


Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) is a measurement technology based on LiDAR with FMCW. The term Lidar is an abbreviation for Light Detection and Ranging, which is essentially a three-word description of the technology. This technique uses numerous light pulses to build a three-dimensional map of the ground around the sensor. Elon Musk’s Tesla is the most famous example, which is built on fmcw lidar technology. It is a recent advancement for the industry, making it a widespread choice for leading autonomous vehicle companies.

Market research statistics and growth potential:

Mobileye, an Intel subsidiary, was recently permitted to test the technology in Munich, Bavaria. Intel paid 15.3 billion dollars for the firm in 2017. Amazon has just paid 1.2 billion dollars for the firm Zoox, which specializes in autonomous driving. Thus, there has been constant investment in this sector which shows the potential for growth for a future of transportation dominated by disruptive technological innovations.

Upsides of the FMCW technological offering:

Compared to traditional “direct detect” LiDAR approaches, the fmcw lidar technology has several benefits:

Enhanced range resolution:

Enables the separation and measurement of numerous surfaces that are closely spaced.

Enhanced dynamic range:

Allowing simultaneous assessment of both bright and dark objects.

Sensitivity to single photons:

Small apertures, long-range operations, and obscurant penetration are all possible because of this technology.

Sensitivity to velocity:

Ensuring the detection and quantification of motion.

Low cost and scalability:

Using highly integrated PiCs (Photonic integrated circuits) makes it cost-effective. The sensors used in fmcw lidar technology can detect the tiniest quantity of light, which is one reason it is so strong.

Other rivals in the sector have been expanding their Lidar capabilities in-house or through third-party vendors or via mergers and acquisitions like the case of Aurora.

Setbacks/challenges faced by traditional lidar systems:

FMCW, as per research, does not have too many setbacks to stop the development of the technology. Traditional AM lidar systems are susceptible to disturbances :

  • They may operate poorly under strong sunshine due to solar loading.
  • Light pulses from other sensors might mislead sensors.
  • A sensor’s prior pulse might cause it to be confused.

These occurrences might generate data inaccuracies, leading to issues such as “phantom” items that don’t exist or objects reported in the incorrect place. To address these sorts of data artifacts, vehicles utilizing AM lidar require more hardware, sophisticated software, and processing power than vehicles using FMCW variants.

How the FMCW variant trumps over the traditional setbacks:

Because each sensor is specifically built to respond exclusively to its own light pulses, FMCW is immune to these problems. As a result, FMCW technology allows for more precise object detection while simultaneously conserving the hardware, software, and computing resources that have previously been needed to overcome AM flaws.


Lidar technology for FMCW is improving, although it is still difficult. In a world full of fast-moving robotic vehicles, the firm is also aiming for the performance that will be required. Even the most modern AM lidar systems available today have significant disadvantages compared to lidar innovated by FMCW.

While Tesla represents significant competition to Lidar’s position in the autonomous car market, the technology’s popularity among all other participants, along with ever-more-efficient advancements, means that it is here to stay for the time being and help create a driverless future.

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