Will automotive change the LiDAR market?
Autonomous driving is a huge opportunity for LiDAR
Today, companies like Waymo, Uber, Lyft, Baidu, and Mercedes-Benz are integrating an average of $200,000 worth of sensors into hundreds of conventional cars, seeking to transform them into fully autonomous vehicles (“robotic cars”) that operate on streets worldwide. Waymo, for example, is already offering its services to a select number of users, integrating sensors like LiDAR, radar, cameras, inertial measurement units, and GPS. As a whole, the robotic cars market is expected to exceed 100,000 units by 2023 and surpass 1M by 2032.
The current worldwide automotive market comprises 100M units annually. Little by little though, autonomous functions are reaching new models. Last year, Audi was the first automaker to introduce a commercial car, the Audi A8, with LiDAR. The system was developed and produced by Valeo, the leading French auto parts maker.
LiDAR technology, which is already used in diverse industries such as aerospace, archaeology, construction, and wind farms, has two huge opportunities ahead: industrial-grade LiDAR for robotic cars, which is happening now; and automotive-grade LiDAR for consumer cars, which will happen in a few years. Yole Développement (Yole) expects the global automotive LiDAR market (system) to reach a market value of $5B by 2023 and $28B by 2032.
This comprehensive report covers market volume and value, from system to components. Also included is a deep understanding of how the market will evolve, and an analysis of the potential business opportunities for each player on the industrial chain.
Automotive LiDAR’s impressive diversity
In the past two years, more than $800M has been invested in LiDAR companies. Some companies, despite being created only a few years ago, have received millions in investments. For example, Blackmore, founded in 2016, recently received $18M from BMW and Toyota. And Quanergy, launched in 2012, received $180M in 2017. Such investments testify to LiDAR technologies’ immature. Start-ups, industrial players, Tier-1s, and automotive OEMs are all investing in different approaches with no guarantee of success - but this is the price they must pay for a chance to be part of the automotive-grade market for LiDAR technologies, seen by many as the “Holy Grail”.
On the technology side, the range of offers is equally impressive. Most current products, such as those proposed by Velodyne, use a macro-mechanical scanning of laser beams at wavelengths between 830 - 940 nm. However, MEMS scanners are expected to be the next evolution of automotive LiDAR, promising to be smaller and cheaper. The next step after this should be the optical phased-array, as proposed by Quanergy, in which no moving part is present - thus becoming even cheaper, smaller, and safer. This technology stems from optical fiber communications.
Some players like Continental and Xenomatix propose flash LiDAR, in which the whole scene is illuminated simultaneously with no moving part. Other players propose different solutions: Cepton and Luminar have revealed mechanical scanning technologies, while Neptec employs Risley prisms.
Although many players use a wavelength from 830 - 940 nm because corresponding optical components are more widespread, some are investigating the 1550 nm wavelength for which a higher laser power can be used, because the laser maximum’s permissible exposure is roughly 100x higher and also because dust robustness is better. These players include Blackmore, Neptec, Aeye, and Luminar.
And the diversity continues, with most LiDAR development companies using a direct LiDAR type called pulse LiDAR, in which a pulse of light is sent to the target; the time it takes to return to the photodetector confirms the distance. A few companies are investigating continuous-wave ranging methods which allow for heterodyne detection, and therefore much higher sensitivity. IFM and Benewake are investigating the phase-shift ranging method, while Blackmore and Oryx are investigating the frequency-modulation ranging method.
This report provides a technological analysis of each approach, along with a roadmap, cost breakdown, and penetration estimate for each one. Also include are market forecasts in units and value, per technology type.
Will LiDAR reach the automotive mass-market?
There is no doubt that automotive LiDAR is progressing rapidly today, but alternatives exist. Tesla announced it will not use LiDAR for its autonomous functions, and TuSimple, a Chinese company, is developing autonomous trucks without LiDAR. Also, the recently-released Cadillac Super Cruise relies heavily on maps. On the technology side, automotive radar is beginning to gain imaging capabilities thanks to beam steering. Vision processing and artificial intelligence are helping cameras to better detect and classify objects and therefore understand three-dimensional space. Infrared cameras might also play a role for night vision. All of these technologies are improving at an impressive rate, creating a tough competitive space for LiDAR players. As such, it is too early to determine which technologies will feature in autonomous cars, but we’re certain that redundancy and complementarity between sensors will be mandatory for ADAS cars and robotic vehicles to reach their potential.
LiDAR’s expansion into new applications is not limited to automotive. The technology is increasingly used in construction and geographical information systems, and is also a key component for automated guided vehicles, like those that help automate warehouses. Moreover, LiDAR is finding applications in wind measurement, which is mandatory for the development and operation of wind farms. Tens of thousands of megawatts of wind power are added each year, and with wind turbines reaching over 100 m in height, a safe and simple wind velocity measurement solution is needed.
First imagined in the 1930s by E.H. Synge, LiDAR is now available on all scales, from a few grams to several tons. In the future, it might also be available at a mass-market scale in robot-taxis and in our cars, offering to machines the type of 3D perception that brings them closer to human beings, and instills in them the ability to function autonomously within our world.
OBJECTIVES OF THE REPORT
- Market trends and forecasts
- Key players for LiDAR and LiDAR components
- Applications in the automotive, industrial, and scientific segment
- Technology trends