New Lidar Tech Illuminates CES 2022
Lidar suppliers tout increased perception, smaller form factors and mass production capabilities as the sensors begin moving to mainstream applications.
While marquee automakers and suppliers ditched CES 2022 due to a COVID surge, more than a dozen lidar suppliers unveiled their latest products and innovations during the show. Here’s a highlight of sensor companies’ CES announcements and how they fit into the ever-changing autonomous-vehicle and mobility landscape.
This German startup called its Qb2 sensor unveiled at CES “the next generation of lidar” due to capturing and processing of 3D data being performed by a single-unit integrated system and requiring no additional compute, servers, or adaptor boxes – a world first, the company said. The device combines MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) hardware with a compute module that runs Blickfield’s Percept software stack, which the company also announced at CES. Beyond autonomous-vehicle (AV) and mobility applications, Percept software can be used for crowd analytics, traffic management, smart industry and security solutions, with the Frankfurt, Germany, airport already deploying the software in a people-counting application.
This Chinese supplier showed its new AT128 lidar sensor at CES, a directional long-range hybrid solid-state solution designed for ADAS applications in mass-production vehicles. Hesai said the AT128 provides consistent resolution over a full field of view and has a small form factor for easy integration onto production passenger and commercial vehicles. The AT128 provides an ultra-high measurement frequency of over 1.53 million points per second (single return) and range of more than 200 meters (656 feet) with 10% reflectivity and effective object detection as far as almost 70 meters (230 feet). Hesai said the AT128 has been subjected to more than 50 validation tests conducted according to OEM standards such as electrical, mechanical, environmental, sealing, material and EMC tests.
The company added that the AT128 is developed based on Hesai's proprietary lidar ASICs, which it said greatly simplify the assembly process and increases manufacturing efficiency and consistency for mass production. Hesai's AT128 has secured contracts for multiple ADAS programs, mainly from Chinese mobility companies, including Li Auto, HiPhi and JiDU, an electric vehicle venture between China tech giant Baidu and Chinese automaker Geely. Hesai said the contracts call for several million units and that the sensor will begin mass production in 2022.
This Israeli company is considered one of the leaders in automotive lidar and was one of the first to develop lidar that uses a MEMS-based sensor. Its first volume commercial sensor, the InnovizOne, is scheduled to launch on BMW vehicles later this year and includes four lasers, detectors and MEMS units. Innoviz also debuted a pair of its next-generation sensors at CES, the lower-cost InnovizTwo and the Innoviz360. The InnovizTwo is slated to be produced in 2023 and has a single laser, detector and MEMS unit, which the company said will reduce the sensor’s cost by 70%. The Innoviz360 uses most of the hardware from the InnovizTwo including the new single laser, detector and custom processing chip but contains a different beam-steering system.
At CES, Innovusion revealed production-ready versions of its Falcon and Robin lidar sensors designed for use in AVs, smart mobility and industrial automation. The company said once production starts it will be able to produce lidar sensors in high volume, reaching 100,000 units per year. The Falcon system is an image-grade lidar with a detection range of more than 500 meters (1640 feet), and the company said it can be customized and integrated into any consumer vehicle. The lidar is scheduled for delivery in early 2022 and Chinese electric automaker NIO is using the Falcon Lidar as the standard configuration for its flagship ET7 autonomous sedan. The Robin system is a short-to-midrange lidar that’s 1.3 in. (35 mm) high, a compact and lightweight form factor featuring low power consumption. Innovusion said the Robin sensor can be integrated onto a vehicle’s fenders, headlights, rear lights or bumpers to provide 360-degree vehicle coverage.
Lumotive and ZKW Group
In another nod to integrating lidar sensors into vehicles in a low-key configuration, at CES lidar maker Lumotive and lighting systems and electronics developer ZKW Group unveiled a golf-ball-sized lidar that fits inside a vehicle headlight. The concept couples Lumotive's compact, solid-state M30 lidar with ZKW's innovative vehicle lighting, while Lumotive said its Light Control Metasurface solid-state beam steering chip reduces complexity, cost and size of its lidar systems. It added that the use of LCM chips eliminates the need for large mechanical moving parts of traditional lidar sensors and enables what it calls the industry's first “software-defined” lidar, allowing the lidar scan pattern, frame rate and resolution to be customized for specific use cases in real time.
Luminar announced at CES that its lidar sensors will be standard equipment in Volvo’s new line of electrified vehicles that will also be capable of autonomous highway driving via the automaker’s Ride Pilot feature. While initial availability will be in California, Volvo did not announce a timeframe. The Swedish carmaker displayed the Concept Recharge electric crossover at Luminar’s CES booth and said it will also apply for an autonomous test permit in California, where the vehicle will launch. Luminar said its Iris sensor detects objects nearly 250 meters (820 feet) ahead of a vehicle at highway speed. The company expects per-sensor cost t to be between $500 and $1,000 per vehicle, depending on production volume.
Israeli startup Opsys announced that it inked a deal to provide full production solid-state lidar sensors to South Korea-based automotive supplier SL, with delivery beginning in 2024. The company’s technology is based on vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) microchips that it said are easier to produce and therefore less costly than those based on the edge-emitting laser technology used in most solid-state or semi-solid-state lidars available today. Apple uses VCSELs in its latest iPhones for face recognition and because suppliers are rapidly ramping up to meet demand for the chips, availability should increase and prices decrease. The Opsys lidar will be packaged into lighting modules produced by SL, the Korean supplier said.
Ouster exhibited its recently unveiled DF series solid-state lidar sensors for high-volume automotive production and showed its OS series scanning lidar powered by its new L2X chip. Ouster customers showcased applications at CES leveraging the company’s lidar across automotive, industrial and robotics use cases. These included Vecna Robotics’ autonomous mobile robot for warehouse and logistics operations and Robotic Research’s commercial autonomous driving technology. Perrone Robotics offered rides in GreenPower Motor Company’s AV Star shuttle that’s designed for cargo, delivery, shuttle, transit, and school bus markets and uses Ouster lidar.
One of the obstacles to electric-vehicle adoption is access to charging, which is why a coalition of South Korean government agencies is working with companies to develop a mobile, autonomous EV-charging robot, with plans to deploy the units throughout the country by the end of 2022. Together with system integrator iCent, Quanergy is supplying its M-series 3D lidar and Qortex 3D perception software for the EV charging robots to enable their safe, efficient navigation. Each robot will be equipped with three lidar sensors: one M8 sensor to detect and classify objects in “stop” mode, and two M1 Edge sensors for collision avoidance. The sensor detection zones are monitored dynamically based on the robot’s movement to and from a charging location.
The Chinese company showed its RS-LiDAR-M1 sensor, which it said is “the world's first mass-produced automotive-grade MEMS solid-state lidar,” and Ruby Plus, a new 128-beam mechanical lidar sensor. RoboSense said it completed its first mass production and delivery of the M1 as part of a project with an unnamed vehicle manufacturer and the company has also received orders from Chinese automakers, including BYD, GAC, WM Motor, Geely subsidiary Zeekr, and Inceptio Technology. RoboSens said the new Ruby Plus not only has a longer detection range and higher detection accuracy than its predecessor, but it has also reduced the sensor’s overall weight and volume by more than 50% and power consumption by 40%.
Lidar pioneer Velodyne used CES to show its Alpha Prime long-range sensor that the company debuted in November 2021 and said generates a high-quality point cloud in a wide variety of light conditions, with advanced sensor-to-sensor interference mitigation, power efficiency and thermal performance. Velodyne also showed off its solid-state sensors and its Intelligent Infrastructure Solution at CES, which creates a real-time 3D map of roads and intersections and provides traffic monitoring and analytics in any lighting or weather condition, according to the company. Velodyne also demonstrated its Vella Development Kit (VDK) that provide access to Velodyne’s Vella perception software paired with the company’s lidar sensors, allowing customers to plug in lidar with an off-the-shelf library of functions to help accelerate time to market for autonomous vehicles, ADAS, mobile delivery devices, industrial robotics and drones.