Safety and Sustainability Impacts of an AI / Lidar System

By Jim Frazer

Technology Trends

Austin Wilson, Velodyne Director of Intelligent Infrastructure discusses, safety and sustainability  Lidar, intelligent infrastructure & Vision Zero, including:

  • What is Lidar? 
  • What is Vision Zero? 
  • What challenges do you see in the intelligent transportation market (VZ/safety or otherwise)  that LIDAR uniquely addresses?
  • How does Lidar surmount those obstacles?
  • What is Velodyne’s Intelligent Infrastructure Solution and the technology behind it?
  • What benefits does Velodyne’s IIS offer?
  • Can you share any details on city partners that are actively utilizing the solution to improve traffic safety and achieve Vision Zero goals?
  • What kinds of technology competes with lidar-enabled infrastructure? 
  • What are the challenges within the industry that you see for these existing technologies that lidar solves?
  • Can you discuss how traffic safety is often "reactive" rather than "proactive" and how Velodyne Lidar is a "proactive" solution?
  • Pedestrian fatalities continue to rise, despite an increase in technologies meant to protect them. Can you tell us how Velodyne’s IIS can be utilized to improve safety for vulnerable road users?
  • What do you see in the future for Lidar in general and Velodyne in particular?


 Listen in to this exciting, informative episode here:



Read a subset of the transcript below.

Jim Frazer  - Welcome to another episode of the ARC  Podcast. I'm Jim Frazer, Vice President of smart cities here at ARC advisory group. And today, I'm thrilled to welcome Austin Wilson, the Velodyne, Director of intelligent infrastructure. Austin, can you tell us a little about your career journey, what led you to work with LIDAR intelligent infrastructure and perhaps even a little bit about Vision Zero.

Austin Wilson  - absolutely appreciate having me on today, Jim and giving me the stage to talk about some of the work that Velodyne and I are up to, it's greatly appreciated. My background of how I got where I am today is probably not the traditional type of route that that you hear from people that are working in civic innovation, or government innovation or traffic safety or anything like that. I actually, as a college dropout that started my own company, which they then sold and exited about a decade later. And after that, I wanted to get into the tech world just because I had a passion for technology. And couple years before that I had an experience of unfortunately being hit by a vehicle in Los Angeles while I was on my skateboard. And through that experience, I started to really try to on my own understand how organizations at the time thinking organizations, not local governments, make decisions on corrective actions on how they can make roadways safer for vulnerable road users at the time, I didn't think about it at that level. But after being hit by a vehicle, you tend to notice things on the road more and think about things a little bit differently. And so in my journey of getting into tech, I started working for a company called Urban leaf, which is a tech startup based out of San Francisco. And through that I kind of fell in love with working with the public sector and understanding large problems that are within communities and how you can leverage technology to then understand those challenges and potentially solve them through XY and Z. And so for me, you know, I fell in love with that whole aspect of problem solving and leveraging technology to help us understand the outcomes. And after working at Urban League for several years, I branched out and started my own consultancy called Govtech labs, where I would advise gov tech companies about how to scale their product into the public sector ecosystem at the local and state level. And through that experience, development, LIDAR was a client of mine, and we started launching several projects. And they came to me with an opportunity to join them full time and help them continue to launch the intelligent infrastructure solution and effectively be the general manager of the market for Velodyne. And the rest was history. And so I've been full time with them for about five or six months. And it's honestly the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to use my passions and the things I'm excited about to work on every day and deliver those safe and meaningful outcomes to communities around the world.

Jim Frazer  - Wow. Well, thanks, Austin. You know, for those who might not be familiar with the technology, and in fact the acronym, can you talk a little bit about what your what is like our what is what does that acronym stand for? And you know, what is Vision Zero?

Austin Wilson  - Excellent question. So, LIDAR. The acronym stands for light detection and ranging. So think of sonar, which is, you know, sound radars radio. Lidar is light detection and ranging. We use laser beams to create a 3d representation of a surveyed environment. So LiDAR, quote, unquote, sees in 3d and provides a very high-resolution point cloud in real time for a wide range of environments through Day Night rain or snow. The way that I kind of like to say that easy is it lets computers have vision that enables computers to have computer vision so your drone, your robot your autonomous vehicle can actually see in Vision Zero, not so much to do with LiDAR, but Vision Zero itself is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities, and severe injuries while increasing safety, health and well ability for all and this was first implemented, I think in Sweden in the 1990s. And Vision Zero has been a pretty big success across Europe. And now it's gaining a ton of momentum here in America. And I think there's probably like 65 to 70 cities that are now committed to Vision Zero, and trying to reach, you know, specific goals by next year to again, reduce and eliminate all traffic fatalities, and severe injuries on the roads. And I, I can't remember exactly what city it might have been. It might have been Oslo. But I believe in 2020, they had zero vulnerable road user deaths, because they executed on their vision zero plan well, and over the course of a decade, they were able to reduce that down to zero, which is pretty wild. If you if you really think about that.

Jim Frazer  - That's pretty nuts. That's almost unbelievable. I'm not Austin, let's, let's talk a little bit more about LIDAR. You know, you're saying it's, you know, computers will have vision, you know, most of the human vision is two dimensional. Is LIDAR two dimensional? Or would you consider it multi-dimensional? Does it give us actual distances and shapes?

Austin Wilson  - Oh, absolutely. It's definitely three dimensional. So as the laser beam leaves the LIDAR sensor, it bounces off an object bounces back, and then creates a 3d image of its environment to tell you how far away something is, its trajectory, how tall it is. And then you can take all of that data as we do, process that on the edge, and then we send that data to our cloud. So our users can then experience that data, that 3d data that the LIDAR sensor creates and make informed and prescriptive decisions based off those data sets about how to fix intersections, arterioles, highways and things of that nature.

Jim Frazer  - Well, okay, Austin, anytime anyone mentions vision and camera systems, there's a privacy concern about facial recognition. And you know, situations like that there's law line are suffer from those same challenges in the public perspective.

Austin Wilson  - So it is not something that I that I talk with our city partners about is the fact that LIDAR has no bias in terms of the human being or the object or animal or vehicle, or whatever it may be that it sees. So as cameras at an intersection, you know, there's a lot of civic unrest with putting four or five, six cameras on an intersection, you got 1000, intersections around your city, you got cameras everywhere, you know, that can be facial recognition, they can be taking patient biometrics, all sorts of different things. LIDAR doesn't do any of that LIDAR doesn't see skin color, eye color, hair color, or anything, right. It just sees, let's say, in this circumstance, we're talking about the vulnerable road user just sees the human being. So it's a great technology for cities to leverage to not break the community's trust.

Jim Frazer  - That's good. So that that leads to my third question. So what challenges do you see in this intelligent transportation market that LIDAR maybe uniquely addresses?

Austin Wilson  - Well, safety for one, sustainability, efficiency, equity and privacy concerns, as you and I were just discussing, the privacy concerns that the front part of that where I said to equity, you know, cities right now are looking for solutions that are systemically safe throughout their communities, meaning they don't want it to just work in one community, they want it to work in every facet of their community. Now, I live in Kansas City, Missouri. Currently, we have a pretty diverse community here in KCMO. For example, if you go about 10 blocks east of where I currently live, the life expectancy is about 18 years less than where I live, that's not that far away from where I live, yet. It's a 17-year difference. So when you're talking about, let's say, the communities that are east of where I live in Kansas City, those are the communities where people are underserved, you know, can be underappreciated, undervalued. And unfortunately, you get a lot of people that say darker skin complexions, and Kansas City who live in those communities. As we were talking about earlier, Jim, a lot of these accidents happen at dusk, or at night or at dawn. And unfortunately, a lot of these vulnerable road users are hit by these vehicles at that time. So when you're talking about equity, if my technology can work in any community the same because it doesn't see the human being or the eye color or the skin color, it can be equitably distributed to drive innovation and systemic safety throughout a community, which is extremely again valuable for communities these days to scale technologies throughout an entire community to deliver outcomes, not just a portion of the community.


Jim Frazer  - Well, I today we've talked with Austin Wilson Velodyne, Director of intelligent infrastructure. Austin, before we go, how can listeners contact you,

Austin Wilson  - you can email me at a  or you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. There's probably about, you know, 2000, Austin Wilson's but you know, hopefully I'm up there at the top.

Engage with ARC Advisory Group