Lumotive drives competitiveness of lidar sensors into a new dimension
Lumotive’s lidar sensors are based on a proprietary technology called Liquid Crystal Metasurfaces (LCM). The start-up uses this technology to steer the laser beam for its lidar sensors. The technology enables the construction of lidar sensors without moving parts. Therefore, these devices are more reliable, more compact and above all much more cost-effective than those that use a mechanical beam steering system. In addition, Lumotive’s technology allows the products to be manufactured in a standard CMOS process that has been proven millions of times over – plus, it is cost-effective and also scales well. Lumotive also claims an advantage over lidar sensors based on micro-electronic-mechanical systems (MEMS), which are also semiconductor-based: LCM technology enables more efficient implementation and a longer range, they say.
After presenting the X10 prototype last year, Lumotive has now introduced its first two lidar sensors, which are destined for commercial series production. The new X20 and Z20 sensor models, which build on the architecture of the X10, are expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2020. These sensors integrate functional units for the laser transmitter, beam steering and evaluation electronics. The building blocks are also available for automotive suppliers and industrial sensor manufacturers who want to produce their own lidar sensors. The X20 enables automotive applications with a range of over 120 meters under full sunlight with a field of view of a 120° x 30°. The Z20 sensor will have a shorter range (~ 50 meters); however, with a vertical aperture angle of 70° it opens up the prospect of various industrial applications. Lumotive’s engineers do not intend to limit themselves to the automotive market. Such sensors are also well suited for use in drones, robots and industrial automation in general, says CEO William Colleran.
Also, the automotive market is not so homogeneous that it could manage with a single type of sensor: In addition to sensors for sophisticated ADAS systems, which are intended to relieve the drivers of conventional vehicles of their tasks, but not replace them, Colleran sees a separate market for completely self-driving vehicles for taxi and delivery services. These move more slowly and are subject to certain restrictions (route, surroundings), but without a human driver. The requirements for these sensors are therefore different from those for ADAS.
In addition, Lumotive also intends to enter the numerically promising market of consumer devices, especially smartphones, in the medium term. However, this would require a further significant reduction in the size of the technology.