LiDAR is a core component for autonomous driving, yet the high cost is the biggest hurdle ahead for its application. However, LiDAR start-ups are racing to bring down the cost, let alone leading players like Velodyne.
Solid-state LiDAR is believed to be the key for cost slash due to simpler structure design and less mechanical rotating components. It can also improve production efficiency.
No one knows how soon the automotive-grade LiDAR will appear. But the industry is positive about technology development of LiDAR. For example, Anti Braking System(ABS) used to be priced as high as USD 8,000, but the cost is below USD 200 today. Executives from Velodyne and Quanergy believe the price cut of LiDARs is a certainty when annual production volume of LiDARs hit millions of units
At CES 2018, about 15 LiDAR makers will unveil their new products.
AEye, founded in 2013, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and develops advanced vision hardware, software and algorithms for autonomous vehicles.
In June last year, AEye completed the USD 16 million A-round funding, led by Airbus, Intel and other capital institutions.
In December 2017, AEye introduced iDAR™ (Intelligent Detection and Ranging), which combines the world’s first agile MOEMS LiDAR, pre-fused with a low-light camera and embedded with artificial intelligence. iDAR enables rapid, dynamic perception and path planning, and it creates -definable software and extensible hardware that can dynamically adapt to real-time demands. AEye will demonstrate iDAR and announce its product suite at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.
Benewake, founded in June 2015, is located in Beijing, focusing on the development of solid-state LiDAR. In 2016, the company launched a mass production level solid-state LiDAR——CE30, which earned it the champion of the Audi Innovation Lab. In 2017, Benewake has entered BOSCH Accelerator.
Benewake chooses Flash LiDAR as its developing route, because emitter is the most mature part of the whole value chain. As to receiver, Benewake prefers high-speed CMOS to the more complicated APD photodiode.
The Benewake CE30-A LiDAR can be applied in the AGV (Autonomous Guided Vehicle). It features a 132°x 9° field of view and a detection range of 4m to detect low-altitude obstacles.
The CE30-D 20-channel LiDAR is mainly used in smart mobility with a 30m detection range, and 60°x4° field of view. It has entered mass production stage and will be displayed at the CES.
Cepton Technologies was founded in 2016 by four experienced veterans in the semi-conductor industry with Stanford background. Cepton adopts micro-motion, a technology similar to MEMS, instead of spinning components.
As to autonomous driving, Cepton’s LiDARs for car use will be tested in 2018 and examined in 2019.
Genius Pros Technology
In September 2017, Genius Pros Technology (GPT), a Chinese LiDAR company, unveiled 5 of its new optical-solid-state surface array LiDARs in USA, including short range, middle range and long range units. GPT claimed that these new products utilize depth camera technology.
The official price of the short range LiDAR is about hundreds yuan, medium range product about 2,000 yuan, and the long range product less than 10,000 yuan.
GPT will show its partners’ terminal applications of the above mentioned products at CES 2018 and 4 series of its products: Smart, Wide, Power and Ultra, applying to areas as autonomous driving, intelligent robot, intelligent security and consumer electronics. Ultra series details are unveiled at CES 2018.
Established in 1998, Ibeo mainly sells 2 kinds of products: ScaLa and LUX series. The former is a 4-beam LiDAR developed jointly with Valeo, and the later is widely applied to autonomous driving projects. ZF acquired Ibeo’s 40% shares in Aug., 2016 to jointly develop solid-state LiDAR.
In Nov., 2017, Ibeo unveiled its new 3D solid-state LiDAR. At CES 2018, Ibeo will show this solid-state LiDAR sample, and predicts it would be mass-produced in 2021.
Innoviz has achieved several important progresses in autonomous driving. For example, it cooperated with well-known tier 1 suppliers including Magna and Aptiv, and received investments from the two.
Innoviz divides its roadmap into 3 stages: R&D, InnovizPro (facing aftermarket, and applying to autonomous driving R&D and testing for automakers), and InnovizOne (facing frontmarket). InnovizOne will be available in 2019. At CES 2018, Innoviz will unveil its first high-resolution 3D LiDAR InnovizPro that is regarded as a catalyzer for autonomous driving automakers.
Established in Nov., 2016 by Bao Junwei, the former Baidu’s self-driving division director, Innovusion released its hybrid solid-state LiDAR sample Hi Def LiDAR in Dec., 2017. The profile of Hi Def LiDAR sample is about the size of palm, and its width is close to the length of an iPhone, and its volume is less than 100 cubic inches. According to official data, the horizontal FOV of the sample is about 90°, and its vertical FOV is about 40°, with a range of more than 200 m and high resolution. Hi Def LiDAR will be officially exhibited at CES 2018.
LeddarTech, a Quebec-based setup, has received accumulated financial investment of USD 120 million from tier 1 suppliers and semiconductor companies including Magna, Delphi, Magneti Marelli, OSRAM and IDT.
LeddarTech mainly supplies signal processing IC, one of key components of solid-state LiDAR. LeddarTech will release LeddarCore LCA2 chip at CES 2018 -- the first vehicle-mounted 3D solid-state LiDAR that can be mass-produced in the world. In addition, 3D Flash LiDAR module (A class prototype) based on LCA2 chip, and LeddarCore LCA3 solution whose first prototype will be launched in 2018.
Luminar last year launched a LiDAR with a range of over 200 m, adopting a laser with a wavelength of 1550 nm. Definition of the LiDAR is increased by 50 times compared with those utilizing a laser with a wavelength of 905 nm, which guarantees the safety for a car with a speed of 75 miles/h on highway.
Besides, Toyota Research Insititue (TRI) invested USD 36 million in Luminar in Sept., 2017. Toyota’s self-driving platform 2.1 and 3.0 feature Luminar's LiDAR technology. Its newest autonomous test vehicle reportedly will be unveiled at CES 2018.
Ouster was founded in June, 2015, with its headquarter in San Francisco.
Ouster has brought a 64-channel LiDAR OS1 priced only 1,2000 dollars, and prepared 27 million dollars for its mass production. It is said that the first one has already been shipped.
According to the feature, Ouster OS1 is slightly inferior than Velodyne’s 64-channel one, but it performs better on its package technologies and power consumption. The features of operating temperature range for some key hardware has not been disclosed yet.
The product is exhibited at CES 2018.
So far, Quanergy has gained the investment of USD 150 million from Samsung, Delphi and Daimler.
Quanergy’s automation plant in Sunnywell has begun the production of S3 sensor, and Sensata’s (partners of Quanergy) plant in State of Massachusetts is responsible for the mass production of the sensor which is called as “the first solid-state 3D LiDAR ready for mass production globally”.
Quanergy cuts the price of its solid-state LiDARs down to 250 dollars (for large-scale procurement), which is much lower than those of conventional multi-channel LiDARs. The price will even be reduced to 100 dollars for Quanergy planning to achieve an annual production of millions in 2019.
Quanergy has also built cooperation with Fisker, an EV automaker, to launch a brand new Fisker EMotion firstly at CES which is integrated with five Quanergy’s S3 LiDARs.
In 2017, Robosense seemed to have accelerate its step on products from the announcement of its 16-channel LiDAR mass production, disclosure of“Prometheus”plan and multi-channel LiDAR coupling solution, to the launch of 32-channel LiDAR. Moreover, the company is going to launch more “weapons”: MEMS solid-state LiDAR and OPA solid-state LiDAR.
It is said that RS-LiDAR-M1 Pre, the MEMS solid-state LiDAR will be exhibited on CES, and the mass production of it will begin at the end of 2018 or in the first quarter of 2019. The sample of OPA solid-state LiDAR is going to be released next year, whose is estimated to be mass-produced in 2020.
Last February, TetraVue announced the investment of 1 million dollars from Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Nautilus Venture Partners, Samsung Catalyst Fund and Foxconn, while at the end of last December, it gained a new funding from KLA Tencor, LamResearch and Tsing Capital.
TetraVue’s technology is different from others’, which integrates high resolution videos and range information.
TetraVue’s LiDAR captures 60 million bytes of data per second
The present cameras can precisely detect high resolution 2D images but cannot catch deep information of objects. According to official information, TetraVue combines digital videos and LiDAR technologies, to capture images of millions pixels with precise deep information. The technology is unveiled at CES.
Founded in 2011, TriLumina adopts illumination module rather than scanning system, with the advantage of smaller size, higher resolution, further detect range and lower cost.
Headquartered in Albuquerque in State of New Mexico, TriLumina announced a new round financing of 9 million dollars in last May, which was invested jointly by Kickstart Seed Fund, Stage 1 Ventures, Cottonwood Technology Fund, DENSO Ventures and Sun Mountain Capital.
At CES, TriLumina exhibits some use cases of its 90nm VCSEL illumination module including a new 3D solid-state LiDAR system driving by illumination module, and the LiDAR will demonstrate the integration of TriLumina’s lighting technologies on LeddarTech 3D LiDAR platform.
At this CES Velodyne exhibits two LiDAR products: 128-channel LiDAR VLS-128 and Velarray, a solid-state LiDAR.
VLS-128 can detect a range as far as 300m, with a better performance 10 times than HDL-64. Velodyne achieves automation calibration on the product and uses ASIC chips for some key modules, which improves the production efficiency greatly and cuts the cost at the same time.
It is Velarray’s debut at CES. Without mechanical rotating components, it has a range of above 200m, a horizontal FOV of 120°, and a better vertical resolution of 0.1°than VLS-128’s. The specification of Valarray will include 32 channels, 16 channels, 8 channels, and even 4 channels for autonomous vehicles with low speed.
Both the automotive-grade products of VLS-128 and Velarray are reportedly to be released in the forth quarter of 2019.