LiDAR Sensor Plugin

This page introduces the Velodyne LiDAR Sensor plugin, as well as how to build your own LiDAR sensor plugin.

Table of Contents

Velodyne LiDAR Sensor Plugin top#

This sensor plugin is for Velodyne LiDAR. VLP-16, VLP-32C and VLS-128 are currently supported. The built asset bundle of this plugin (named sensor_VelodyneLidarSensor) can be found in AssetBundles/Sensors folder when you unzip the downloaded SVL Simulator (i.e. in the same level of the Simulator executable).

The Velodyne LiDAR Sensor is implemented following exact intrinsics of real Velodyne LiDAR, such as elevation angles and azimuth offsets. Particularly, each laser beam in Velodyne LiDAR sensor has azimuth offset same as the real LiDAR, while the normal LiDAR Sensor assumes all laser beams are on same vertical line (i.e. no azimuth offset).

In contrast to the standard LiDAR Sensor, which generates point cloud and publishes it via bridge, Velodyne LiDAR sensor generates data packets and position packets and sends them out via UDP socket. Velodyne driver running on the host machine (the machine which receives the packets) is responsible for converting these packets into point cloud and publish it out. This will greatly alleviate the burden on bridge bandwidth, so that the simulation can support more sensors (e.g. camera sensors) simultaneously. See this issue for an example of exhausted bridge bandwidth.

Velodyne LiDAR Sensor JSON options top#

Parameter Description Unit Type Default Value Minimum Maximum
VerticalRayAngles defines vertical angle for each laser beam* List of Float empty list
LaserCount defines how many vertically stacked laser beams there are Int 32 1 128
FieldOfView defines the vertical angle between bottom and top ray degrees Float 41.33 1 45
CenterAngle defines the center of the FieldOfView cone to the horizon (+ means below horizon) degrees Float 10 -45 45
MinDistance defines how far an object must be from the sensor for it to be detected meters Float 0.5 0.01 1000
MaxDistance defines how close an object must be to the sensor for it to be detected meters Float 100 0.01 2000
RotationFrequency defines how fast the sensor rotates Hertz Float 10 1 30
MeasurementsPerRotation defines how many measurements each beam takes per rotation Int 1500 18 6000
Compensated defines whether or not the point cloud is compensated for the movement of the vehicle Bool true
PointSize defines how large of points are visualized pixels Float 2 1 10
PointColor defines the color of visualized points rgba in hex Color #FF0000FF
VelodyneLidarType defines type of Velodyne LiDAR String VLP_16
HostName IP address of host String
UDPPortData UDP port for data packets Int 2368
UDPPortPosition UDP port for position packets Int 8308

* Most of parameters except the last four are same as LiDAR Sensor.

Details of last four parameters are as follows:

  • Value of VelodyneLidarType can only be "VLP_16", "VLP_32C" or "VLS_128". Note that it uses underscore ('_') not dash ('-').
  • HostName is the IP address of the machine which receives the UDP packets (a.k.a. host machine).
  • UDPPortData and UDPPortPosition are UPD ports for data packets and position packets. If more than one Velodyne LiDAR plugin is used, each one should have a unique port.
  • VerticalRayAngles, LaserCount, FieldOfView, and CenterAngle will be ignored for Velodyne LiDAR since they will be set internally following the corresponding model spec.

VLP-32C configuration sample:

    "type": "VelodyneLidarSensor",
    "name": "Velodyne VLP-32C",
    "params": {
      "MinDistance": 0.5,
      "MaxDistance": 100,
      "RotationFrequency": 10,
      "MeasurementsPerRotation": 1800,
      "Compensated": true,
      "PointColor": "#ff000000",
      "Topic": "/point_cloud",
      "Frame": "velodyne",
      "VelodyneLidarType": "VLP_32C",
      "HostName": "",
      "UdpPortData": 2368,
      "UdpPortPosition": 8308
    "transform": {
      "x": 0,
      "y": 2.312,
      "z": -0.3679201,
      "pitch": 0,
      "yaw": 0,
      "roll": 0

Velodyne LiDAR Sensor Usage top#

Running with Autoware top#

Autoware is based on ROS. For ROS-based systems, ROS Velodyne driver can be used.

Detailed steps of running ROS Velodyne driver are as follows:

1. Create a workspace folder and enter it

mkdir velodyne_ws && cd velodyne_ws

2. Clone ROS Velodyne driver into src folder

git clone src

3. Build the Velodyne drive as a ROS node


4. Setup running environment

source /opt/$ROS_DISTRO/setup.bash
source devel/setup.bash

5. Configuration of device IP Before running the Velodyne driver, you need to modify the launch files to setup device IP (i.e. the IP of the machine where the SVL Simulator is running).

  • For VLP-16, edit velodyne_ws/src/velodyne/velodyne_pointcloud/launch/VLP16_points.launch and put the device IP after device_ip.
  • For VLP-32, edit velodyne_ws/src/velodyne/velodyne_pointcloud/launch/VLP-32C_points.launch and put the device IP after device_ip.
  • ROS Velodyne driver does not support VLS-128 for now. For more details please refer to the official page.

6. Launch Velodyne driver

For VLP-16:

roslaunch velodyne_pointcloud VLP16_points.launch

For VLP-32C:

roslaunch velodyne_pointcloud VLP-32C_points.launch

If you have SVL Simulator running on client machine, you should be able to see UDP packets received on both data port and position port, and ROS topic /velodyne_points is published by the driver. You can also use RViz to visualize the point cloud in that topic.

Fig. 1 shows point cloud of VLP-32C visualized in the simulator,

Fig. 1: Visualized point clouds of VLP-32C LiDAR in SVL Simulator.

and Fig. 2 shows the same point cloud visualized in RViz (click to see in full resolution):

Fig. 2: Visualized point clouds of VLP-32C LiDAR in RViz.

Note that the output topic name (/velodyne_points) of ROS Velodyne driver is hard-coded and not configurable, while Autoware assumes point cloud published into ROS topic /points_raw. To have ROS Velodyne driver running with Autoware, you have to either use <remap> tag in Autoware launch files to may /velodyne_points to /points_raw, or modify the topic name in the source code of ROS Velodyne driver and rebuild it.

Running with Apollo 5.0 top#

Apollo 5.0 is based on CyberRT and comes with its own Velodyne driver.

Detailed steps of running ROS Velodyne driver are as follows:

1. Follow these instructions to start Apollo 5.0 and launch bridge.

2. (optional) Configure the LiDAR model if your LiDAR setting is different to the default setting of Apollo 5.0.

To configure the LiDAR model, you can edit velodyne.dag file. Note that if more than one LiDAR is used, each has different data port and position port (configured in their corresponding .conf files. You need to set UDPPortData and UDPPortPosition for each Velodyne LiDAR sensor accordingly.

The default launch file and dag file of Apollo 5.0 use VLS-128 and VLP-16 LiDARs. If you need to use VLP-32C, in addition to add VLP-32C to dag file, you may need to modify static_transform_conf.pb.txt to include your own VLP-32C extrinsics if you want to get compensated point cloud.

3. Launch GPS, Localization, Transform, and Velodyne modules in Module Controller page of Dreamview. Fig. 3 shows the Dreamview web interface:

Fig. 3: Dreamview web interface.

On the Simulator side, you can add Velodyne LiDAR sensor into our sample JSON.

If you have SVL Simulator running on client machine, you should be able to see UDP packets received on both data port and position port, and cyber_monitor should shows point clouds published into corresponding Cyber channels. You can also use cyber_visualizer to visualize the point cloud in those channels. Fig. 4 shows the point cloud of VLP-32C LiDAR visualized in Cyber Visualizer (click to see in full resolution):

Fig. 4: Visualized point clouds of VLP-32C LiDAR in Cyber Visualizer.

Build Your Own LiDAR Sensor Plugin top#

If you want to build your own LiDAR sensor plugin to support other LiDAR models, you can follow the general instructions on building sensor plugins.

Instead of deriving your plugin class from SensorBase, you can derive your class from LidarSensorBase, so that you can reuse most of the code there, focusing only on raw data generation and sending.