Lidar technology market is facing shakeout, study says

Lidar technology market is facing shakeout, study says

Market news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Lidar is a sensor technology that enables vehicles to perceive their surroundings, make decisions and navigate. 3D lidar systems scan the environment with light beams and create a virtual model of the environment from the measurement of the reflections. This model is used by vehicle electronics to detect and identify objects and to develop a driving strategy based on the knowledge gained. Most car manufacturers consider 3D lidar to be indispensable for automated driving (including levels 3 and 4) and have established partnerships with suppliers of lidar technology. One notable exception is Tesla – the Elon Musks company believes it can do without lidar.

According to IDTechEx experts, the most well-known player is the US company Velodyne, known in 2005 for its mechanical rotating lidar HDL-64. Velodyne’s first MLA (micro-lidar array) product, Velarray, was announced in 2017, followed by VelaDome in 2019, which is designed for close-range operation, while Velarray offers object detection at long range. The new non-rotating technology for the automotive industry uses a 128-channel VCSEL light source. It is based on 905nm ToF. The scanning mechanism is not known; IDTEchEx assumes an electromechanical approach.

Another big name in this market is the Canadian company LeddarTech. The company offers lidar modules, but the main focus of the company is the LeddarEngine SoC together with related software. The company has recently launched the Leddar Pixell 3D flash lidar module, which is optimized for proximity detection and blind spot coverage in urban environments, and this strengthens the company’s position in the autonomous shared mobility market.

The automotive lidar sensor market is saturated with more than 100 technologies.
Source: “Lidar 2020-2030: Technologies, players, markets and forecasts” IDTechEx report.

Quanergy, a Californian start-up founded in 2012, rose to fame by developing the world’s first optical phased array (OPA) 3D lidar for the automotive industry. In recent years, Quanergy has shifted their attention to non-automotive markets following challenges and delays they faced in the automotive industry. It is an important question as to whether Quanergy has made the right technology choices in its OPA system or not. The choice of 905nm brings the benefit of using a well-established light source and detector, but the SiNx OPA platform might be slow and present significant heat management issues. The lack of a foundry ecosystem may also push Quandary to take on too many tasks. 

One brightest young star in this market is Innoviz, an Israeli start-up founded in 2016 with the aim of developing and commercializing 3D lidar based on MEMS mirror beam steering. It counts Magna International amongst its investors. In the past three years, Innoviz accumulated an impressive $252 million USD and secured a contract with BMW to supply the InnovizOne product in 2021 for a BMW production vehicle. InnovizOne is positioned as an automotive grade MEMS-based lidar module. The question is now whether it will finally gain commercial adoption or not. 

A rather new player on the scene is Livox. They are set up by the Chinese drone maker DJI and seem to be following the same strategy: offering a compelling price in order to drive others out and force an industry consolidation. This is a tempting strategy given that there are so many players and technologies today and that most offerings are too expensive and only promise future cost reductions, believe the IDTechEx experts. The lidar is also ToF operating at 905nm. Their Mid-40 lidar with 38.4deg FoV, 0.05-0.1 angular resolution and 260m is using a rotating prism. The interesting point here is that DJI – thanks to its drone business – has excellent know-how and capability in designing the motors, which are often a cost and reliability bottleneck. They have already received a 5k unit order and completed 13k hours of reliability testing running 24/7. 

As competition intensifies in the automotive lidar market, it seems likely that some start-ups will not survive. Oryx Vision is the first high-profile casualty: the Israeli 3D lidar business closed in August 2019 despite having secured $67 million USD in funding. Oryx publicly stated delays in the automotive industry as an important factor in the decision to end operations. IDTechEx however believe that their unusual and complex lidar architecture was the main reason. Oryx Vision described their lidar design as ‘coherent flash’ technology; it operates at a wavelength of 10 micrometres that common and cost-effective lasers cannot produce.

The report also examines the companies that already succeeded in securing a contract with a global car manufacturer. Major automotive OEMs prefer to obtain lidar technology for their autonomous production vehicles via trusted Tier 1 partners. The general trend in the automotive industry is that Tier 2 suppliers develop new lidar technologies, while Tier 1 suppliers optimize these products for high-volume production. For example, Valeo Scala technology was originally developed by Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. Valeo developed Ibeo’s lidar into a mass-produced sensor for Audi. Similarly, Innoviz has partnered with Magna, the Canadian Tier 1 supplier, and Magna will deliver automotive grade lidar modules to BMW.

As a separate note that Ibeo is now developing a 905nm ToF lidar using SPAD detectors which require multiple measurements to build up the picture but give out a digital signal. Their design includes a VCSEL array and an SPAD array (12800 pixels and emitters). They have three ASICs which allow them to control the system and generate specific patterns on the VCSEL without the need to flash the entire scene. That enables them to boost the range to 250m even though the system architecture and components are similar to a flash lidar. The IC placement and assembly are also relatively straight forward allowing high level of automation. In general, this puts them on a good cost-reduction path which may mean that the lack of a scanning mechanism could be compensated by multiple lidars. Ibeo is working with their investors ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

However, a minority of Tier 1 suppliers and automotive OEMs develop their own lidar technology. IDTechEx interviewed Tier 1 supplier Continental about progress in developing the HFL110 3D Flash LIDAR product, which builds on their expertise in advanced driver-assistance systems. Continental expects the adoption of 3D lidar in the automotive market to accelerate in the second half of the coming decade.

According to the market model developed by IDTechEx, a winning lidar technology cannot emerge within the next decade. The ideal 3D lidar technology depends on the type of vehicle, its level of autonomy, and its typical operating conditions. According to the market forecast calculated by IDTechEx, the global market for 3D lidar in level 3+ autonomous vehicles grows to $5.4 billion by 2030, and MEMS lidar emerges as the largest market segment during this time period particularly thanks to their readiness level. Nevertheless, the MEMS technology is facing challenges like the need to balance size, resonant frequency, and angle of the mirror, and automotive-grade reliability.

IDTechEx Lidar Study:

Related articles:

Velodyne makes Lidar sensors affordable

Cherry, Quanergy partner on autonomous vehicles and smart cities

Innoviz raises another $132 million for solid-state lidar sensors development

Oryx Vision grabs $50 million for solid-state lidar

VCSEL array as core component for Ibeo’s solid-state lidar

Bosch completes sensor portfolio for automated driving

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