Cadillac is doing something new with LiDAR. Instead of sticking a puck on its cars, it's using the sensors to map the highways of the United States and Canada and geofence its semi-autonomous Super Cruise feature, instead of letting drivers use it anywhere they want. It seems like a bold move, but in reality, it's how self-driving cars will initially enter the market.
The realization of a fully autonomous-car future rests on regulations, sensors, high-powered computers and maps. While safety is the basis for most vehicle laws, it's becoming increasingly important for there to be blanket federal regulations concerning these vehicles (instead of the current patchwork of laws that vary from state to state).
Sensors are increasing in accuracy while dropping in price and the silicon that crunches all that data is getting smaller and more powerful. In the middle of all that are the maps that are essential for actual navigation, both around town and within lanes. So while Cadillac is the first automaker to use high definition LiDAR maps, it certainly won't be the last.
Nearly every car with some sort of semi-autonomous feature is using a map to help keep it on the road. Tesla has its community sourced information while Mercedes-Benz is using Here maps to help determine the appropriate speed to take an upcoming corner.
Yet, it'll be highly detailed maps like the one used by Cadillac that'll make robotaxis a reality. The LiDAR map used by Super Cruise and stored in the trunk of the CT6 is accurate within 10 centimeters. It sees 2,500 meters ahead of the car based on its trajectory and shares information with the computer that determines if the semi-autonomous feature should continue or if the driver should take over.
When Uber and Lyft finally drop their truly self-driving taxis onto the streets or cities, or unveil their fleets of autonomous buses they'll need to be able to access a locally stored map like the CT6 does to navigate the complex roads of a metropolitan area.
The vehicles will need that data to be stored on the vehicle even if it is updated daily, hourly or even every few seconds. That's because passengers won't be happy if their ride to work suddenly stops working because it lost its network connection.