Self-driving cars employ a whole host of sensors and technology that helps them navigate by themselves, detect obstacles, and so on. One of those technologies used is LiDAR, which is a laser system used to help measure distances. These lasers are rated to be safe to the human eye, but unfortunately it might not be safe for cameras.
This is what engineer Jit Ray Chowdhury found out (via ArsTechnica) when he was snapping photos of a self-driving car by Ridecell at CES 2019. Everything seemed okay until he discovered in his photos bright purple spots with lines emanating from them. Speaking to the publication, Chowdhury said, “I noticed that all my pictures were having that spot. I covered up the camera with the lens cap and the spots are there—it’s burned into the sensor.”
It seems that this was due to the LiDAR system employed by the car that might have caused damage to his $1,998 camera. The car itself uses a laser system from AEye, whose CEO Luis Dussan told Ars that the company’s lasers are safe for the human eye, but since cameras are more sensitive, there is a chance that lasers in general could affect them in a negative way, which you can see in the video above.
However this story does have a happy ending because AEye has since offered to buy Chowdhury a new camera. We’re not sure if he took them up on the offer, but it was nice of them to do so anyway.
@CES @AEyeInc Aeye LIDAR damaged my DSLR, they are not safe to be photographed. Neither was I warned when I took permission for photo nor this happened with any other LIDAR. See the red spots, they are permanent damages. pic.twitter.com/WlvJtCH3rd
— Jit Ray Chowdhury (@jitrc) January 9, 2019