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Man Says CES Lidar’s Laser Was So Powerful It Wrecked His Camera

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A man attending this week’s CES show in Las Vegas says that a lidar sensor from startup AEye has permanently damaged the sensor on his $1,998 Sony camera. Earlier this week, roboticist and entrepreneur Jit Ray Chowdhury snapped photos of a car at CES with AEye’s lidar units on top. He discovered that every subsequent picture he took was marred by two bright purple spots, with horizontal and vertical lines emanating from them. “I noticed that all my pictures were having that spot,” he told Ars by phone on Thursday evening. “I covered up the camera with the lens cap and the spots are there — it’s burned into the sensor.” In an email to Ars Technica, AEye CEO Luis Dussan confirmed that AEye’s lidars can cause damage to camera sensors — though he stressed that they pose no danger to human eyes. “Cameras are up to 1000x more sensitive to lasers than eyeballs,” Dussan wrote. “Occasionally, this can cause thermal damage to a camera’s focal plane array.” Chowdhury says that AEye has offered to buy him a new camera. The potential issue is that self-driving cars also rely on conventional cameras. “So if those lidars are not camera-safe, it won’t just create a headache for people snapping pictures with handheld camera,” reports Ars. “Lidar sensors could also damage the cameras on other self-driving cars.”

“It’s worth noting that companies like Alphabet’s Waymo and GM’s Cruise have been testing dozens of vehicles with lidar on public streets for more than a year,” adds Ars. “People have taken many pictures of these cars, and as far as we know none of them have suffered camera damage. So most lidars being tested in public today do not seem to pose a significant risk to cameras.”

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