Sony A7R II camera reportedly killed by a driverless car and its laser technology

Perhaps the most exciting news to come out of CES 2019 wasn't the camera releases, as there were relatively few, but a freak incident that may have broken a camera, and it was all down to driverless car technology.

At CES Jit Ray Chowdhury, himself an autonomous engineer, took a picture of an autonomous car using lidar technology with his Sony A7R II camera. 

After he took the image, he found that any photo he took after there were purple spots on the images. 

This was apparently caused by the lasers used in the lidar technology - the navigation system used by autonomous vehicles that maps out objects surrounding the vehicle (lidar is an acronym for light detection and ranging).

Chowdhury tweeted about the incident and spoke to ArsTechnica about it, noting: "I noticed that all my pictures were having that spot. I covered up the camera with the lens cap and the spots are there - it's burned into the sensor."

Laser quest

AEye, the company behind the lidar technology, has responded, with CEO Luis Dussan noting that while there's no harm to eyes, "cameras are up to 1000x more sensitive to lasers than eyeballs." 

Speaking about lasers in general, he explained: "Occasionally, this can cause thermal damage to a camera's focal plane array."

It's pretty clear that you should never point a camera at a laser, but in this case the laser was invisible to the human eye. 

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Marc Chacksfield

A technology journalist who has been in the industry for 17 years, Marc is the former editor-in-chief of TechRadar and has also steered the ship for technology brands including T3, Tom's Hardware and Tom's Guide, and is currently the director of Shortlist Media and co-owner of 

An expert in the field of camera phones and mobile tech, Marc has been a long-time specialist when it comes to phone reviews, hands-on coverage, reviews and rumors. As a frequent visitor to big trade shows like CES, he has also had boots on the ground for the latest camera announcements and breaking developments in fields such as 8K video.