Lidar is a sensor technology that enables vehicles to perceive their surroundings, make decisions and navigate. 3D lidar systems scan the environment with light beams and create a virtual model of the environment from the measurement of the reflections. This model is used by vehicle electronics to detect and identify objects and to develop a driving strategy based on the knowledge gained. Most car manufacturers consider 3D lidar to be indispensable for automated driving (including levels 3 and 4) and have established partnerships with suppliers of lidar technology. One notable exception is Tesla - the Elon Musks company believes it can do without lidar.
According to IDTechEx experts, the most well-known player is the US company Velodyne, known in 2005 for its mechanical rotating lidar HDL-64. Velodyne's first MLA (micro-lidar array) product, Velarray, was announced in 2017, followed by VelaDome in 2019, which is designed for close-range operation, while Velarray offers object detection at long range. The new non-rotating technology for the automotive industry uses a 128-channel VCSEL light source. It is based on 905nm ToF. The scanning mechanism is not known; IDTEchEx assumes an electromechanical approach.
Another big name in this market is the Canadian company LeddarTech. The company offers lidar modules, but the main focus of the company is the LeddarEngine SoC together with related software. The company has recently launched the Leddar Pixell 3D flash lidar module, which is optimized for proximity detection and blind spot coverage in urban environments, and this strengthens the company's position in the autonomous shared mobility market.
Quanergy, a Californian start-up founded in 2012, rose to fame by developing the world's first optical phased array (OPA) 3D lidar for the automotive industry. In recent years, Quanergy has shifted their attention to non-automotive markets following challenges and delays they faced in the automotive industry. It is an important question as to whether Quanergy has made the right technology choices in its OPA system or not. The choice of 905nm brings the benefit of using a well-established light source and detector, but the SiNx OPA platform might be slow and present significant heat management issues. The lack of a foundry ecosystem may also push Quandary to take on too many tasks.