LiDAR technology is moving from scientific and space applications to the mass market with numerous applications in consumer and automotive segments. Non-scanning LiDARs are already used in automotive for Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with a range around 10m. However, LiDAR with imaging capabilities working over a longer range are needed to enable the revolution to autonomous cars.
Due to this revolution the market for automotive LiDAR is expected to increase from US$325 million in 2017 to US$5.2 billion in 2023, according to the report by Yole Développement, LiDARs for Automotive and Industrial Applications published mid-2018. Yole, the market research and strategy consulting company, and its partner Knowmade combined their expertise to provide a comprehensive overview of the LiDAR industry. An additional report focusing on the patent landscape is also available: LiDAR for Automotive – Patent Landscape Analysis.
XenomatiX, a Belgium company created in 2013, is actively participating in this revolution by offering different types of LiDAR: A long-range LiDAR using the indirect time of flight method, and short range and specialized LiDAR for road topology monitoring.
Alexis Debray, PhD, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole, recently met with Filip Geuens, CEO of XenomatiX, who shares with our i-Micronews.com readers his experience.
Alexis Debray (AD): Please introduce XenomatiX and XenomatiX’ LiDAR to our readers?
Filip Geuens (FG): XenomatiX is the first company to offer true solid-state LiDAR solutions for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving (AD). XenomatiX designs and builds products that enable precise real-time 3D-digitization and understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings. XenomatiX delivers sensing solutions that lead to safer and more comfortable vehicles. The company’s next generation LiDAR provides unequalled object detection and tracking, free space detection, road profile measurement and localization capabilities based on reliable, proven technology. Customers include several of the world’s leading car manufacturers, Tier 1 companies and mobility innovators. XenomatiX is based in Belgium with international operations and global industry partnerships.
AD: Can you explain the positioning of your technology compared to other LiDAR technologies with reference to performance and availability?
FG: We see 2 main categories in the market: global illumination LiDARs (also called flash LiDAR) and scanning-beam LiDAR. The scanning can come from an optical phase array or from a rotating mirror, oscillating mirror or other mechanical device.
Our XenoLidar does not fit in any of these 2 categories. XenoLidar uses multi-beam.
Just like global illumination, we measure the scene in one shot and with high resolution, but in a much more efficient way as we only need a fraction of the energy a flash system needs. This actually translates into the fact that we can cover a much larger range for the same energy.
In the end it is a balancing exercise. We believe we have the best mix of what is critical for automotive in terms of cost, reliability, resolution, efficiency and size (in order of importance).
XenoLidar point cloud based object tracking – Courtesy of XenomatiX
AD: Solid-state LiDAR is considered the next generation of automotive LiDAR. Do you see a threat from solid-state LiDAR?
FG: Mechanical LiDAR has proven the importance of LiDAR for reaching higher levels of automated driving. Switching from mechanical to solid-state is a logical next step, but also a necessary step for large scale adoption in moving vehicles. Cost, size, reliability and scalability requirements can only be met with a solid-state solution. In this matter, solid-state means not just ‘non-mechanical’, it also means ‘semiconductor-based’.
There is no such thing as ‘the battle of sensor technology’. LiDAR is not trying to push other sensors out of the market. We all try to find the perfect cocktail of different sensor types and different sensor technologies to solve mobility challenges. The opportunity exceeds by far the threat.
Growth expectations and market opportunities are high for all sensing technologies. If there was a technology to overcome current issues with LiDAR and camera, it would already have surfaced.
At XenomatiX, we have made enough progress with solid-state LiDAR to industrialize and successfully use this technology before a completely new approach pops-up and matures.
AD: What is the most important bottleneck for automotive LiDAR today? Is it technical, economics, or lack of a defined need?
FG: Today, an important bottleneck is the lack of decision taking. Many people get confused by the diversity of make-believe solutions and by initiatives that failed to deliver on their promises. That is slowing down adoption. Too many parties are sitting on the fence and waiting for a leader to pick a solution.
We deal with this by putting evidence on the table. Being able to back-up performance statements with functional products is our response. However, early adopters are still needed to help the technology to mature further, moving from technology level to application level.
AD: What are the main drivers for developing new automotive LiDAR today?
FG: The main driver is the fact that we all believe self-driving cars will solve all our mobility problems. We experience mobility problems every day. Any technology that eases this pain is applauded. And rightfully, LiDAR is considered one of the essential building blocks for that solution.
These dreams have created a lot of push and that explains why LiDAR development was going in all directions. However, we are starting to see some convergence. Many specialists who monitor the market from close on tell us we made the right trade-off between all the requirements automotive LIDAR has to meet.
Time-to-market is definitely an important driver at this moment. Given the fact that the XenomatiX solution is based on mature technology, this is definitely one of our advantages.
AD: Do you think there will be different applications for automotive LiDAR: short and long range, blind spot, front and back of car?
AD: Do you think this will lead to having several technologies for LiDAR being applied at the same time?
FG: Sure. There is no one-size-fits-all. Different applications have different needs in terms of range, resolution, accuracy, latency … There is no reason to stick to only one technology. Some current developments for automotive will even lead to solutions in other markets and applications. This is a good evolution.
AD: Several companies are investigating or proposing some level of autonomy for cars without using LiDAR (Examples: Tesla, TuSimple, and Cadillac). Do you think LiDAR is mandatory for autonomous driving?
FG: Nice things have been achieved with camera and radar. So indeed, some level of autonomy is achievable in this way. But higher automation will require high resolution 3D data. The exact location and trajectory of anything around the car has to be understood in all circumstances. At this moment I consider LiDAR the only technology that delivers such 3D data with sufficient resolution. I’m sure the initiatives you mention will also start using LiDAR sooner rather than later. The technology wasn’t ready when they made their choice. They made something work with what was available. As soon as better tools exist, they will make use of it, and maybe even quickly as they have proven to be leaders.
AD: Can you talk about the target price of LiDAR from XenomatiX?
FG: Some automotive parties who already took a closer look at our product confirm a price level close to that of a stereo camera is well within reach once volumes go up. Mass production price is determined by the underlying production technology. We use components that are based on production processes that are already very mature today. So our price projections can also be backed-up with evidence.
AD: When can we expect to see a LiDAR from XenomatiX in a commercial car?
FG: We are active in projects with Tier Is and OEMs on future car models. There are several opportunities for XenomatiX technology, so we are positive about the future. But timing is confidential and only partially in our hands.
Mr. Filip Geuens, CEO of XenomatiX
Filip Geuens (°1970) graduated as a mechatronics engineer at the University of Leuven, Belgium and also holds a master’s degree in Operations Management from KULeuven.
He spent his entire career in optical metrology. Filip started as the 7th employee at a company called Krypton, developing Optical Coordinate Measuring Machines. The company was acquired by Metris, following which Metris was acquired by the Japanese company Nikon, evolving to 70, then 700 and finally to 27,000 employees.
In his previous role he was CTO of Nikon Metrology, one of the 6 business units of Nikon. That business unit is developing optical 3D inspection systems for quality control in automotive and aerospace. Since 2015 Filip has been using his past experience in both optical systems and automotive business to build and grow XenomatiX.
Alexis Debray, PhD is a Technology & Market Analyst, Optoelectronics at Yole Développement (Yole). As a member of the Photonics, Sensing & Display division, Alexis is today engaged in the development of technology & market reports as well as the production of custom consulting projects dedicated to the imaging industry.
After spending 2 years at the University of Tokyo to develop an expertise focused on MEMS technologies, Alexis served as a research engineer at Canon Inc. During 15 years he contributed to numerous projects of development, focused on MEMS devices, lingual prehension, and terahertz imaging devices.
Alexis is the author of various scientific publications and patents. He graduated from ENSICAEN and holds a PhD in applied acoustics.
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XenoLidar: True-solid-state LiDAR
for reliable detection & tracking