LiDAR — yes, it sounds like a tool that any professional journalist covering politicians should carry with them. Unfortunately for political reporters everywhere, LiDAR doesn’t detect fibs. Instead, it stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and it’s a critical technology for self-driving cars.
That makes it a particularly appealing product category for startups looking to make their mark in the emerging market of autonomous technologies.
A new crop of startups, complete with plenty of venture capital and each boasting to have an excellent solution for any autonomous vehicle manufacturer looking to add LiDAR to their offerings.
Among these businesses is Quanergy, a startup founded in 2012 that has spent much of this time developing what it hopes will be a value-based solution. While some LiDAR systems run thousands of dollars, Quanergy plans to eventually make its mass-market solution available for around $100.
One of the ways Quanergy is able to bring its system price down so far is its use of a solid state design. With no moving parts, these systems can be manufactured more easily. This means a smaller field of view for each sensor, however.
Some unique tech out there
Another company working on solid state LiDAR is Velodyne. This company, which also produces 360-degree LiDAR systems, is working on a solid-state option to complement them. With a 35-degree vertical and 120-degree horizontal field of view, these smaller, less pricey systems still offer plenty of range to work with.
Oryx Vision out of Israel has a unique take on LiDAR. Using special lasers that have a longer-wave infrared laser that enables the system to “see” through fog. It can also work in the face of direct sunlight. This answers some of the more common issues current LiDAR technology faces.
Luminar Technologies is also worth mention because not only does it produce LiDAR systems, but it does so entirely from scratch. Some companies get by combining multiple third-party components into their hardware, but not Luminar. This startup builds everything in-house.
These companies are each approaching the same problem in a different way. This is a very good thing for the autonomous vehicle industry as it applies pressure in the direction of innovation. Whether the system is solid state or 360-degree, 3D modeling or low power, the real victor in this competitive market is the consumer.