Tower Semiconductor Says New Lidar Technology Can Make Autonomous Vehicles More Responsive

Compact, solid-state lidar scanner using Tower's SiPho platform can provide superior performance, claims company.

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Tower Semiconductor said that it has enabled a breakthrough in lidar integrated circuits.

Tower Semiconductor Ltd. today said it has made a breakthrough in lidar integrated circuit technology for advanced driver-assistance systems and ultimately self-driving cars.

“We are proud to collaborate on this innovative and fundamental breakthrough lidar technology, which is a step towards making safe autonomous vehicles and robots a reality,” said Dr. Ed Preisler, director of radio frequency and high-power amplifier technology development at Tower Semiconductor. “Tower believes that only through such pathbreaking scientific research today we can enable engineering solutions for tomorrow,”

Tower Semiconductor claimed that it is the leading foundry of high-value analog semiconductor solutions. It provides technology and manufacturing platforms for integrated circuits (ICs) in growing markets such as consumer, industrial, automotive, mobile, infrastructure, medical, aerospace, and defense. The company's platforms include SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management (BCD and 700V), and MEMS.

In addition, Tower Semiconductor provides design and process-transfer services to integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) and fabless companies. The company operates manufacturing facilities in Israel, Italy, the U.S., and Japan through TPSCo. 

Tower Semiconductor builds on USC research

Researchers from the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, led by SungWon Chung, designed the new IC technology. Manufacture of the ICs used Tower Semiconductor’s open foundry Silicon Photonics platform.

The PH18 Silicon Photonics platform offers optical components including ultra-high bandwidth modulators and photodetectors, serving demand in data center and infrastructure optical communication markets. This platform also offers high-performance elements necessary for high-precision lidar applications, such as low-loss silicon nitride waveguides capable of handling larger optical powers, said Tower.

The new lidar system employs optical phased arrays – hundreds of compact optical antennas—along with amplitude and phase modulators on a silicon chip. This can provide accurate 3D imaging of the surrounding environment without the need for any moving parts, according to the company.

In addition, the field of view, resolution, scanning pattern, and scanning speed are all programmable, so advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and self-driving cars outfitted with this system can respond much better to real-world scenarios, Tower said.

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 sensors in a congested driving environment, said Tower.

The research for this was documented in the 2021 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference Digest of Technical Papers.

In addition to the mutual work done with Tower Semiconductor, this research at USC was partially supported by Toyota Central R&D Corporation (TCRDL), Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), and the USC Pratt and Whitney Institute for Collaborative Engineering (PWICE at USC).


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Tower Semiconductor said that it has enabled a breakthrough in lidar integrated circuits.


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