You are currently viewing LIDAR Versus RADAR Autonomous Driving

LIDAR Versus RADAR Autonomous Driving

Last updated on June 18th, 2023 at 10:27 am

Why does an individual who goes shopping for a self-driving car always at crossroads between a car with LIDAR sensors and another with RADAR sensors? LIDAR technology uses laser light pulses to illuminate objects to gather information surrounding a car. Its precision is usually astounding. On the other hand, RADAR sensors use electromagnetic radio waves emitted from their transmitters to gather information on the object’s velocity and location. These technologies have stark differences, which we aim to explore in this article.


LIDAR systems exploit the properties of light transmission through the air to provide precision in target object results. Together with point clouds formed, the kind of precision obtained is unparalleled. A beam of light pulses focused from the LIDAR sensor is reflected its source upon bouncing off a surface, and the time it takes to get back is used to determine an object’s distance and velocity.

Whereas the LIDAR system is quite expensive, its light pulses’ short wavelength makes it excellent in scanning and detecting surrounding small objects. Moreover, LIDAR technology usage is not limited by daily varying light conditions or even weather changes.

RADAR Autonomous Driving

As much as these two technologies might similar principles in their operation, RADAR uses electromagnetic radio waves to detect objects and gather information on their velocity and location. Usually, a radio wave transmitter is used to emit radio waves towards the target object. Once the radio waves bounce off the object, they are reflected by the receiver for information gathering. Unlike LIDAR, RADAR has a considerably long detection distance.

What is the Difference between LiDAR and RADAR?

PrincipleLidar systems emit laser pulses and measure the time it takes for the reflected light to return to the sensor.Radar systems emit radio waves and detect the reflected signals.
Electromagnetic SpectrumLidar systems use laser beams in the optical spectrum (typically near-infrared or sometimes ultraviolet).Radar systems use radio waves in the radio frequency spectrum.
Resolution and AccuracyLidar provides high-resolution data with precise ranging accuracy.Radar generally has lower resolution and its accuracy depends on factors like frequency and system design.
Environmental SensitivityLidar can be affected by environmental factors like dust, smoke, or heavy rain.Radar is less affected by environmental factors and can penetrate certain obstacles like rain.

Comparisons between LIDAR Versus RADAR Autonomous Driving in relation to:

  • Type of waves transmitted.

The primary difference between LIDAR and RADAR technology is the type of waves focused on the surrounding objects, which determines the range of object detection. LIDAR uses pulses of light, whereas RADAR uses electromagnetic radio waves. These waves possess different properties.

  • Range of object detection

LIDAR’s precision is generally limited to small objects and within a relatively shorter object range. Conversely, self-driving cars with RADAR sensors can detect objects across a more considerable radial distance.

  • Usage in different weather and lighting conditions

Unlike LIDAR technology, RADAR radio waves can penetrate in different weather and lighting conditions because of their insensitivity to these environments.

  • Object resolution capability

Compared to RADAR sensors, the LIDAR sensor’s object resolution capability is relatively lower, which might be one reason one might opt for RADAR over LIDAR systems.

  • Wavelengths emitted

LIDAR laser light emitted from its sensors has shorter wavelengths. For this reason, small objects in the surrounding can easily be detected by this technology, which enhances gathering information with high precision. On the flip side, the RADAR system transmits radio waves at more extended frequencies, thus the lower object resolution.

  • Cost

LIDAR is quite an expensive system compared to RADAR because of its high precision ability. But like any other electronic, its price is anticipated to go down considerably in the next couple of years.

The bottom line

In conclusion, confusion between LIDAR and RADAR in autonomous driving is prevalent but understandable. LIDAR uses laser light pulses for object detection, whereas RADAR uses electromagnetic radio waves to function.

Whereas electromagnetic radio waves and light pulses are transmitted at the same constant speed of light, LIDAR and RADAR have considerable differences. Range of object detection, ease of usage in varied environmental conditions, and cost implications are based on differentiating the LIDAR AND RADAR systems in autonomous driving.

Leave a Reply