In my previous post, I briefly talked about how a LiDAR acts as an eye to a self-driving car. While the concept of the LiDAR is not new, the LiDAR gained attention among the general public only recently with a growing interest in self-driving car technology. Not only a number of companies such as Aptiv, Cruise Automation, Motional, Aurora, Didi Chuxing, Yandex have proliferated recently to make self-driving cars a reality, but a few companies such Comma.AI, and AutoX democratizing self-driving technology by making a stock vehicle capable of driving autonomously.
How does a Self-driving Vehicle see using LiDAR?
Autonomous vehicles have become a recent buzz word with several companies trying to create a perfect robotaxi such as…
Whether it is about self-driving cars from the ground-up or converting a stock vehicle to a self-driving car, LiDAR is going to take a center stage in bringing self-driving technology to people. In such a case, you must be wondering, what are your options to choose a LiDAR from. In this article, I am listing a few such LiDAR companies that are at the forefront of LiDAR innovation to bring this perception technology closer to you.
Aeva Inc., a Mountain View, California-based start-up by two former Apple employees and backed by Porsche SE boasts the first 4D LiDAR on chip, capable of providing a distance range of up to 300m is the first in my list. Unlike other LiDARs, Aeva’s LiDAR called Aeries is capable of providing real-time velocity information with accuracy in the range of cm/s, very similar to a radar does. Its field of view (FOV) is 120°x20° and provides some resistance to interference. Price is expected to be approximately $500, however, the company has not yet disclosed the price of their LiDAR publicly. Recently, they have decided to go public via a reverse merger with a blank check company Interprivate Acquisition Corp and the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.
Innoviz Inc, an Israeli startup, backed by BMW, Samsung, Harman, and Softbank is producing two MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems)-based LiDAR products — InnovizOne, and InnovizTwo. InnovizOne provides a distance range of up to 250m, is weather and sunlight resilient, has a FOV of 115°x25°. It returns multiple reflections per pixel which makes it capable of operating in extreme weather conditions such as rain, and snow. The company’s second product InnovizTwo is slightly smaller than its sibling and provides a FOV of 100°x20°. Apart from LiDAR products, the company also provides a perception software that can harness the point cloud data received from LiDAR to perform object detection, tracking, localization, etc. The company already boasts about ISO 9001:2015, and ISO 26262 certification. Innoviz has also announced that it is going public via a reverse merger with Collective Growth Corp and the deal is expected to close by Q1 of 2021.
Luminar Technologies, which went public in December 2020, is gearing to mass produce one of the slimmest LiDAR by 2022. The company is backed by Volvo and partnered with Intel’s Mobileye and Toyota Research Institute. Luminar is providing two models of LiDAR: Hydra and Iris that operate using 1550nm laser with a range of 250 m. The FOV of their product is 120°x20°. It is being speculated that Luminar’s LiDAR will cost somewhere around $500.
Ouster, a San Francisco based LiDAR company is already in the market. Ouster is currently producing a generation 2 LiDARs OS0, OS1, and OS2 and have recently wrapped the production of their first-generation LiDARs. Ouster uses CMOS technology and the circuitry spins on a turntable inside the package to provide a 360° horizontal field of view. The distance range varies from 50m to 240m with OS2 providing a maximum range of 240m. Of all, OS2 is the most sophisticated one with a FOV of 360°x22.5°. However, unlike its peers, Ouster is a bit pricey, with OS2 starting from $16000, up to $24,000. Like its peers, Ouster has also announced to go public via SPAC with Colonnade Acquisition Corp. They have also announced the production of ES2, a Fully solid-state digital lidar which will be available in the market by 2022.
The last name on my list is Velodyne. It is the oldest of all the LiDAR companies listed here. They provide a range of products from HDL 64E (~$80,000), HDL 32E (~$25,000), Alpha Prime (~$50,000), Puck ($4000), and Puck Lite ($5000). The downside of Velodyne LiDARs is that they spin, they are significantly bulky and difficult to handle. The distance ranges from 245m for Alpha Prime to 100m for the Puck family of LiDARs. To meet the market needs, the company is also gearing to produce solid-state LiDARs under the name H800 and M1600 for automotive and small mobile-robots respectively.
Indeed this is exciting to see so many start-ups spawning lately to make self-driving technology accessible to the general public in the future. In addition to that, the competition in the segment is giving rise to innovation that would have been surprising a few decades ago.
If you have a favorite LiDAR company, or you know of a LiDAR start-up that I have not touched on in this article, let me know in the comments below.
Note: This article is not an endorsement of any of the LiDAR products mentioned above. It doesn’t reflect the views of my employers or academic institution and I am not affiliated with any of the LiDAR companies mentioned in this article. The article is purely for informative purposes. Data about LiDARs mentioned in the article were collected from the respective company’s website and/or conversations with the respective company’s employees via email/text messages/video/online chats.