BMW X6 Vantablack can't hide from lidar

It may be the darkest black pigment in the world, but lidar still captures the vehicle.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read

Lidar is what gives self-driving cars the ability to see the world. It uses lasers and ambient light to measure the distance between it and an object. Well, the BMW X6 Vantablack -- a car painted with the darkest black pigment in the world -- can run, but it can't hide from the technology.

A lidar company called Ouster decided to take its technology into the same room where had the Vantablack X6 on display at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor ShowEngadget reports. Guess what? The lidar was still able to recognize the car, even though the paint coating reflects just 1% of light.

It wasn't the lidar's best performance, but it still managed to pick the car up. Typically, the lidar unit can spot things from more than 328 feet away. In this case, the company said the darkest of dark BMWs would need to be about 72 feet away before the lasers and ambient light register the moving black hole.

Obviously, the sooner a self-driving car knows of an object ahead, the quicker it can calculate the best course of action and how to deal with, say, a stopped vehicle in the road. There won't be thousands of Vantablack cars wandering around -- BMW isn't offering the color for sale anyway -- so the machines can breathe a sigh of relief there.

Even if there were insanely dark cars scattered about, the lidar still picked up highly reflective parts of the car. The headlights, license plate and windshield all gave away the BMW's position. No one is going to paint over those essential parts of the car, so you can stop building your self-driving car roadblock now.

Watch this: 2020 BMW X6 in Vantablack virtually disappears

BMW X6 hides its curves in Vantablack

See all photos