Lumotive’s New LCM Underpins Next-Gen Lidar

The Lumotive microchip uses a patented metamaterial delivering ‘smart’ properties to achieve superior sensing performance.

Lumotive said its new chip enables a solid-state Lidar system with best-in-class performance, cost and size. (Lumotive)

“The future happened yesterday” is an appropriate description of the rapid pace of development in automated-driving technology. The expression may be most accurate in sensor tech where, for most OEMs (except Tesla thus far), radar and lidar increasingly are considered an essential duo for enhanced automated driving beyond SAE Level 2, and of course for full Level 4-5 automation.

Lumotive Lumotive’s proprietary technology enables VOI that can be effortlessly changed. (Lumotive)

Current lidar is transitioning from electro-mechanical systems to solid-state devices. Considered by industry experts to be the technology’s inevitable future, Lidar 2.0 is next-generation 3D sensing that is software-defined, solid-state and scalable. Engineers believe those capabilities will make lidar ubiquitous by reducing costs, speeding innovation and improving user experience.

But despite improvements made in the areas of cost, size, and reliability, there have been unacceptable tradeoffs in the areas of range, resolution and field of view (FoV). One lidar- enabling technology that its developers assert ticks all the boxes is an optical semiconductor from Lumotive. The company calls it a Light Control Metasurface (LCM).

Lumotive CEO Dr. Sam Heidari. (Lumotive)

At the core of the Lumotive microchip is a patented metamaterial, one with ‘smart’ properties capable of blocking, absorbing, enhancing, or bending electromagnetic waves to achieve sensing performance exceeding that of conventional materials. The Lumotive chip’s scalable, solid-state 3D sensing architecture uses patented beam-steering technology (no moving parts) to deliver a combination of best-in-class performance, cost, reliability and size, according to Dr. Sam Heidari, Lumotive CEO. And with zero mechanical inertia, Lumotive’s LCMs enable steering of light in any pattern across the entire field of view within microseconds.

“I can change my VOI (vision of interest) as I please,” Heidari told SAE Media at CES 2023. “I can define how I want to look at the world. If I want high resolution as one VOI, I can do that.” And if high frame rate as a VOI is desired, “I can do that, too. You can only do that with our technology.”

The Lumotive chip is the key component of the company’s Open Lidar API (application programming interface), a technology aimed at leading the industry towards scalable, ubiquitous and lower-cost 3D sensing based on Lidar 2.0 technology. According to Heidari, more than two

dozen companies currently are evaluating the LCM technology. It has applications beyond mobility Lidar 2.0, including communications, computation, photography and holographic displays, he added.