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Blacker-Than-Black BMW X6 Won't Avoid The Police

2019 Frankfurt Motor Show / Comments

The light sucking paint doesn't beat technology.

BMW recently painted an X6 with the darkest black pigment known to man, Vantablack paint. The amazing paint reflects just 1% of the light cast over it and, as we witnessed in Frankfurt, is the blackest black to ever adorn a vehicle. It has scientific and military applications, but mainly it's currently used to create optical effects in 3D objects. BMW used a slightly more reflective application to create this even more startling than usual X6, but 1% total hemispherical reflectance still sucks all but a tiny amount of light. Which creates the question: Can it be seen by LiDar?

via BMW
via BMW
via BMW
via BMW

LiDar is one of the most important ways automotive safety systems and all autonomous cars in development "see" the world around them. Essentially, LiDar measures the distance to an object by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the light reflected back using a sensor. Therefore, having a Vantablack vehicle on the road could actually be pretty dangerous.

To find out if that was the case, and according to Engadget, a company called Ouster took its LiDar equipment to Germany where the Vantablack X6 was being displayed. They attempted to scan the X6 and, as we can see in the video, successfully managed to scan the X6 and recognize it as such.

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The Ouster sensor used was calibrated at a maximum 40 meters for a 10 percent reflective target, so, according to Mark Frichtl of Ouster, "there's a maximum range of around 22 meters for a target that's one-percent reflective, like VBx2-coated X6. That means it has to be close to the car to see it, but, as Frichtl points out: "... certain parts of the X6 are designed to be extremely reflective."

Sharp thinking and speed-happy readers are no doubt wondering if Vantablack paint would evade police LiDar guns which have been gradually replacing radar since the start of the millennium. If you painted the entire car, it looks like it's theoretically possible Vantablack could help avoid speeding tickets. However, some cars using LiDar-based adaptive cruise control, and any autonomous vehicles being publicly tested, may not see you.

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