Velodyne has developed a LiDAR laser sensor specifically designed for cars travelling at high speeds, such as those frequently used on motorways.

The VLS-128 offers more power than any of the manufacturer’s other sensors, offering twice the range of its previous LiDARs and three times the resolution.

Its maker explained it has been created for level 5, (fully autonomous) cars, suggesting it’ll work better than a human when facilitating decisions the car needs to make.

“There is a small black object far out in front of you. Is it a piece of paper, a butterfly, or some tire debris?” Anand Gopalan, the company’s CTO told The Verge. “The autonomous vehicle needs to be able to see this object and make a decision about whether it should change lanes or break, and then take action. Traveling at 70 miles per hour, you have precious little time to do this.”

The LiDAR offers a range of 300 metres and everything is generated in minute detail, helping cars make much better decisions when avoiding obstacles on the road. Even tiny details such as tyre debris in the road can be avoided. On less sophisticated systems, such obstacles would be hard to detect and therefore avoid.

“With lower-resolution LIDAR you would need to somehow fuse the data with cameras and do some processing to create something that can be understood by the computer,” Gopalan said. “You now have such a high-resolution image, you can take the data and put it directly into an image classification algorithm. It reduces complexity and time.”

The LiDAR unit is also smaller, lighter and cheaper than other modules that don’t have the same quality. It also consumes less power, offering a much greater range without the need for extra battery power or memory.