LiDAR, Slip Rings, and Self-Driving Cars

Autonomous driving is quickly evolving from science-fiction to reality. While self-driving cars are certainly nothing new, many still wonder how they can navigate on their own. The answer involves lasers, complex algorithms, and quality slip ring assemblies.



LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a method of surveying that measures distances using laser beams. Like dolphins using echolocation with sound waves, LiDAR systems send out pulsating laser beams that reflect once an obstacle is encountered. Once reflected, the system collects and recognizes object using delicate sensors. The Ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared lights used by LiDAR systems are precise enough to target a wide range of materials such as non-metallic objects and chemical compounds. Readings from global positioning systems (GPS) and inertial measurement units (IMU) are then compared for validation.

Using other methods, like RADAR, are unreliable for mapping and navigation because the larger radio waves used are unable to detect smaller objects with the detail and accuracy of LiDAR. While cameras offer a more detailed alternative, they lack the rendering capabilities necessary for three-dimensional mapping. LiDAR combines the rendering capabilities and reliability of other systems with higher resolution.

Slip Ring Assemblies


Michigan Scientific Slip Ring Assemblies validate LiDAR system readings to improve data collection and mapping accuracy. Attached to the vehicle’s wheels, slip ring assemblies measure speed and position to compare against GPS, IMU, and LiDAR systems. By contrasting the results, accurate and detailed maps can be produced. With such accuracy, applications of this technology remain bound only to the imagination.

What does this mean for the future of autonomous vehicles? Safety is the name of the game, but with so many variables to consider while driving, this can often be a difficult objective to meet. Complex algorithms assess the data and maps provided by LiDAR to determine appropriate navigation behavior. The highly detailed measurements help self-driving cars discern individual objects from one another, even if visually obstructed or hidden. Improving recognitions and reactions to unexpected encounters with pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles make autonomous vehicles smarter and safer.

Slip ring assemblies help LiDAR bring fantasy to fruition with advancements in autonomous vehicle safety, but why stop there? To learn more about how slip ring assemblies can help with application testing and innovation, contact a Michigan Scientific engineer today.