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Automotive Lidar – Still Alive and Kicking

point cloud image GM Ultra Cruise with Lidar
GM Ultra Cruise with Lidar

Heading into 2023, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging – a 3D imaging technology) appeared to be struggling, given the delays in launching profitable autonomous vehicles and the ~80-90% drop in valuations of SPAC-funded (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) automotive LiDAR companies.

Sabbir Rangwata is a Senior Contributor at Forbes. He provided this alternative point of view to my recent editorial in the week’s enewsletter.

LiDAR pioneers were facing severe business hurdles. Some declared bankruptcy (Quanergy, Ibeo), shut down operations (Argo.ai’s LiDAR and AV unit) or announced a merger with a competitor (Velodyne with Ouster). More consolidation is undoubtedly on the horizon since the market opportunities cannot support the number of LiDAR companies that sprouted during the 2015-2020 timeframe (> 70).

Las Vegas spawns optimism, however, and is probably one of the reasons CES is held there. The general buzz around autonomy and LiDAR was upbeat and surprisingly realistic.

OEMs, trucking and industrial equipment providers were bullish on limited passenger car autonomy (L2+ and L3) and L4 for trucking and off-road applications. L2+ refers to an enhanced driver-assist capability that includes automatic lane-keeping and lane-change maneuvers. The human driver is still in control (mind on). L3 is an autonomy feature where a car can drive without human attention in specific conditions (geography, speed, weather, etc.). The driver needs to take over within 10 seconds of being cautioned to do so. L4 refers to full autonomy in specific geographies, with no human driver required. L4 ride-hailing for cars with paying customers is ongoing in fair-weather urban locations (San Francisco, Phoenix, Austin). However, the business case for this segment and the ability to expand to adult cities like New York, Chicago and Boston is unclear. L4 for highway trucking and last-mile deliveries are more tangible. L2, L2+, L3 and L4-trucking are good news for LiDAR companies since they require road-facing 3D sensing functionality for perception and localization. Inside-cabin 3D sensing for passenger safety monitoring is also on the rise.

For the complete article on automotive lidar companies CLICK HERE.

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