Lidar is what gives self-driving cars the ability to see the world. It uses lasers and ambient light to measure the distance between it and an object. Well, the — a car painted with the darkest black pigment in the world — can run, but it can’t hide from the technology.
A lidar company called Ouster decided to take its technology into the same room where BMW had the Vantablack X6 on display at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, Engadget reports. Guess what? The lidar was still able to recognize the car, even though the paint coating reflects just 1% of light.
It wasn’t the lidar’s best performance, but it still managed to pick the car up. Typically, the lidar unit can spot things from more than 328 feet away. In this case, the company said the darkest of dark BMWs would need to be about 72 feet away before the lasers and ambient light register the moving black hole.
Obviously, the sooner a self-driving car knows of an object ahead, the quicker it can calculate the best course of action and how to deal with, say, a stopped vehicle in the road. There won’t be thousands of Vantablack cars wandering around — BMW isn’t offering the color for sale anyway — so the machines can breathe a sigh of relief there.
Even if there were insanely dark cars scattered about, thestill picked up highly reflective parts of the car. The headlights, license plate and windshield all gave away the BMW’s position. No one is going to paint over those essential parts of the car, so you can stop building your self-driving car roadblock now.