Tower Semiconductor announces breakthrough ADAS LIDAR technology

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Tower Semiconductor has announced what it is calling a breakthrough development in LiDAR IC technology for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

The IC was designed by researchers from the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and were led by SungWon Chung and manufactured using Tower Semiconductor’s open foundry Silicon Photonics platform.

The IC employs optical phased arrays – hundreds of compact optical antennas — along with amplitude and phase modulators on a silicon chip for accurate 3D imaging of the surrounding environment without the need for any moving parts.

In addition, the field of view, resolution, scanning pattern, and scanning speed are all programmable, so that cars that are outfitted with this system can respond much better to real-world scenarios.

Tower Semiconductor’s PH18 Silicon Photonics platform offers a number of optical components including ultra-high bandwidth modulators, and photodetectors. This platform also offers the high performance elements that are necessary for high-precision LiDAR applications, such as low-loss silicon nitride waveguides capable of handling larger optical powers.

The LiDAR IC, operating at a human-eye friendly 1550nm wavelength, uses continuous wave frequency modulation (FMCW) making it more resilient to environmental brightness and interferences from other LiDARs in what could be a very congested driving environment.