Following the release of two camera-related reports “Imaging for Automotive 2019” and “Status of Camera Module Industry 2019”, Chenmeijing Liang, Imaging Analyst at Yole Développement had the chance to interview Winwe Qiu, the general manager of Ningbo Sunny Automotive Optech Co. Ltd., better known as Sunny Automotive. In the context of exploding semiconductor demand in the automotive imaging market, which reached $4.4B in 2018 and is now expected to double in the next five years, they discussed the dynamics of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and viewing applications and associated technology trends. Read on to find out more.
Chenmeijing Liang (CL): Can you present Ningbo Sunny Automotive Optech Co. and its position within the automotive imaging ecosystem?
Winwe Qiu (WQ): Ningbo Sunny Automotive Optech Co., Ltd. belongs to the Sunny Group and is committed to providing optical solutions for autonomous and intelligent driving. We entered the automotive field in 2004 and has focused on developing automotive optical products for 15 years. In the past ten years, we has been the No.1 in the automotive lens field. Currently, our products cover four application fields: automotive lenses, LiDAR, Head-Up Displays (HUD) and smart headlights.
CL : Sunny Automotive has a dominant position for automotive lens sets. How do you think this market will evolve?
WQ: Automotive lenses have been applied in cars ever more widely with the development of the smart driving market. Other autonomous driving sensors such as LiDAR and smart headlights are also inseparable from optical components. Sunny Automotive is inevitably involved in these businesses and has cooperated with well-known global enterprises in these emerging fields. Sunny Automotive is also working on projects that will enter mass production as soon as 2020. In general, the lens is an important part of automotive sensors and the application in cars is wider than we thought.
From the perspective of the automotive camera itself, the requirements for lens resolution and quality stability will be ever higher with increasing levels of autonomous driving and intelligent driving. Such lenses require continuous high resolution solutions and must meet more stringent reliability standards.
CL : Performance-wise do you see any difference between the specification of ADAS cameras and viewing only cameras? How about between high-end manufacturers and mid-tier manufacturers?
WQ: The ADAS camera is used for active safety and needs to accurately capture the image. The viewing-only camera is used for passive safety and passes the taken image to people. The imaging quality requirements and temperature reliability requirements are therefore completely different between ADAS cameras and viewing only cameras. High-end and mid-tier manufacturers are just relative terms. For the automotive lens business or automotive camera business, if one manufacturer can understand the product deeply, consider their requirements from the product needs and define optimal specification parameters based on the matching relationship of the upstream and downstream supply chains, we believe that this is a high-end manufacturer.
On the contrary, mid-tier manufacturers often focus on the immediate cost and surface-level product performance because they don’t understand the product deeply and won’t consider the product cost and performance stability over the entire life cycle.
CL : How sensitive to price is this automotive lens market?
WQ: Viewing is very sensitive to price and even follows the principle of price priority because the viewing camera is used for passive safety and only passes the taken image to people. At present, there is a fierce price war in this industry and there isn’t a very high requirement for performance. However, sensing cameras are used for active safety, such as lane detection, signal detection and road sign recognition, and finally active management. If there is any mistake in the image taken from the sensing camera, it will lead to software calculation errors and result in inevitable consequences. So the price sensitivity of the sensing camera is relatively lower.
Therefore, the price of conventional viewing-only cameras will fall continuously as there are few barriers to market entry. So we need to develop a smaller, low-cost automotive lens and make it possible to install more viewing cameras on each car for a wide range of applications. However, the overall market for viewing cameras is still limited, considering that the rear view camera can become standard for each car, while surround view cameras will probably become standard on buses and logistics vehicles at best. In general, the viewing camera market volume is relatively limited and the growth will gradually level off in the future.
On the other hand, sensing cameras will be increasingly widely applied in cars with the market trend of smart driving. Currently, the front sensing camera is mainly monocular and binocular but some systems have a triple camera design. The overall attachment rate for front sensing cameras is not very high and there is definitely a lot of room to grow. Especially in China, this market is very large and the current penetration rate is very low. At the same time, autonomous driving also requires the car to be fully equipped for sensing and therefore to install sensing cameras not only in the front of the cars, but all around. So the number of the sensing cameras will increase and there will be more than twelve sensing cameras per car. In general, this market has great potential and we are very optimistic about it.
CL : How does Sunny Automotive compete in the automotive camera space?WQ: In terms of viewing, Sunny Automotive will cooperate with the chip makers to develop products together. For example, we study how to produce miniaturized cameras and think about how to make the chips and lenses smaller together. Then, based on market requirements, we jointly develop low-cost products that meet market application needs. Sunny Automotive will achieve cost optimization through the innovation and balance in product design, process design and supply chain planning.
In terms of sensing, the mainstream will use full glass lens elements and apply more molding glass elements due to high functional and stability requirements. As Sunny Automotive makes all of its molding glass lens elements from mold design to finished products, we can optimally seek a cost balance between design and processing from the product principle and obtain an optimized solution between performance and cost to the greatest extent to enhance the industry’s competitiveness.
At the same time, Sunny Automotive will consider various problems in practical applications such as abrasion-resistant, self-cleaning and waterproof designs from the application point of view and carry out advanced technology research and development to make our products meet market demand better, enhancing our superiority and maintaining a leading position in this industry.
Winwe Qiu, has a Master’s degree in Optics Engineering, from Changchun University of Science and Technology. Now he is the general manager of Ningbo Sunny Automotive Optech Co., Ltd. In 1997, he joined the optical industry-leading company Sunny Optical Technology and became an excellent optical and structural design engineer. He obtained 17 authorized patents including twelve invention patents, nine as the first inventor. In 2008, Ningbo Sunny Automotive Optech Co., Ltd. was established and has ranked as having the world’s largest market share for seven years.
Chenmeijing Liang works as a Technology & Market Analyst within the Photonics, Sensing & Display Division at Yole Développement (Yole).
As part of the Imaging team, Chenmeijing contributes daily to analyses of CIS markets, related technologies and market strategies of the leading semiconductor companies, as well as the quarterly reports.
Prior to Yole, she was engaged in the development of R&D projects: Chenmeijing was a member of Group PSA R&D department where she worked on Vehicle 3D Holography Imaging projects. In addition, she assisted with various technical and commercial projects.
Chenmeijing Liang holds a master’s Degree in the field of Applied physics and Optical engineering from Paris-Saclay University and University Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) (Paris, France).
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