Jit Ray Chowdhury attended CES in his capacity as an autonomous vehicle engineer, and while there, snapped a picture of a self-driving car equipped with a LIDAR system from Aeye; he says the LIDAR's laser lanced through his camera's aperture and zapped its optical sensor, burning a permanent spot into it and ruining the camera (Aeye has offered to replace it).
LIDAR systems need to comply with rigorous safety rules to ensure that they don't blind human eyes, but camera eyes are much more sensitive (this is the basis for IR-reflective materials that confuse CCTVs).
Self-driving cars use both conventional cameras and LIDAR to guide themselves so any camera-blinding potential in LIDAR systems on autonomous vehicles could wreak havoc with other nearby cars.
AEye uses 1550nm lasers. And unfortunately for Chowdhury, cameras are not filled with fluid like human eyes are. That means that high-power 1550nm lasers can easily cause damage to camera sensors even if they don't pose a threat to human eyes.
AEye is known for claiming that its lidar units have much longer range than those of competitors. While most lidar makers say their high-end lidars can see 200 or 300 meters, AEye says that its lidar has a range of 1,000 meters. When I talked to AEye CEO Luis Dussan about this claim last month, he said that one factor in AEye's long range is the use of a powerful fiber laser.
"One of the most important things about fiber lasers is that they can be amplified," Dassan said. "Very short pulse, huge amount of signal."
Man says CES lidar's laser was so powerful it wrecked his $1,998 camera [Timothy B Lee/Ars Technica]