A comprehensive study and market assessment of 3D lidar, with a focus on the automotive sector, reveals that while the market for lidar has expanded, the next few years will prove crucial for all involved.
The report concludes that while each manufacturer claims to offer a unique and innovative product, in practice the landscape is cluttered. The authors explain the options available and determine their relative complexity and likely impacts on product development and positioning. They also consider how various markets for lidar are likely to develop in the short and long terms.
Lidar is an optical perception technology that uses light (from lasers) to map objects and landscapes in a way that is similar to radar's use of radio waves. Lidar produces a three-dimensional point cloud of its targets, and when that is used in conjunction with other sensor technologies and (according to need) AI, GPS
and/or neural networks, it assists the driver or even allows vehicles to navigate without a human driver. Figure 1 (below) shows the process, and indicates technologies and sub-systems that operate with a 3D lidar system.
Figure 1: How 3D lidar operates in a self-driving vehicle. FOV = field of view, AI = artificial intelligence. Source: IDTechEx.
The essentials of lidar were explained more than 50 years ago, and it has since been used for mapping, atmospheric research, video gaming, security, civil engineering and a host of other applications.
However, the advent of autonomous vehicles in the late twentieth century, and the intense drive to develop such vehicles commercially in the twenty-first, have generated a surge of interest in lidar technologies and their applications in the automotive sector.
The race is now on to make vehicles autonomous to the greatest extent possible (levels 4 and 5
). However, lidar has uses other levels of vehicle automation and ADAS, from emergency braking to level 5.
The important parameters that differentiate in-car lidar systems are;
- Range - a long range is desirable, since this covers most driving scenarios, including highways/motorways.
- Field of view - a wide field of view optimizes the vehicle's ability to sense its surroundings.
- Distance accuracy - This means the car can work out where objects are, with greater accuracy.
- Angular resolution - High resolution enhances object identification.
- Frame rate - A high frame rate means the vehicle can 'see' and respond to fast-moving objects.
- Power consumption - low power consumption drives down costs and battery wear.
- Infrared wavelength - Long wavelengths are safer for human vision and less prone to scatter.
- Unit price - Lower prices mean manufacturers can speed up mass production and put lidar into a wide range of vehicles.
While the 3D lidar market was once dominated by a handful of companies, the market has become increasingly crowded with firms offering products for every part of the lidar system, each one claiming to be better than the last. These firms range from 3D lidar's founders (e.g. Velodyne), established lidar producers (e.g. Luminar, AEye) and tier 1 automotive suppliers (e.g. Valeo
, Magna) to start-ups.
Notably, many of these companies serve other lidar markets, as well as automotive.
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