MobiusTrend, the fintech market research organization, recently released a research report Lidar has “WIMI Hologram Cloud’s AI Vision Aiming at the 100 Billion Market and Lidar Has ‘New Force'”. Unknowingly, from the first laser device in 1960 to the present, in 60 years, Lidar has gone from the initial remote ranging to eye examinations, and then to push sweeping robots into thousands of households. With the advent of the era of autonomous driving, Lidar has even stood in the center of the stage. Driven by the demand for autonomous driving, Lidar technology will see exponential progress.
What is Lidar? The biggest advantage of Lidar over other autonomous driving sensors is the ability to accurately model the surrounding environment in 3D. Millimeter-wave radar can measure distances at high speed. Cameras can identify lane lines and speed limit signs, and ultrasonic radar has a short practical detection range and is only suitable for low-speed parking, while Lidar can accurately identify targets and detect dynamic obstacles, which is not available in other sensors.
Lidar is an active measuring device that emits laser light to measure the precise distance between an object and a sensor. It allows the vehicle to perceive the surrounding environment more accurately. It is widely regarded as an essential component for autonomous vehicles in L3 level (advanced driver assistance systems, ADAS) and L4/L5 level (driverless), which is the “eyes of intelligent driving”.
According to reports, more and more Lidar inquiry sheets are being sent to various manufacturers. Obviously, Lidar is beginning to penetrate the ADAS market. However, the person concerned warned that do not expect only one Lidar supplier to win this gamble.
Of all the automotive sensor modes designed to enhance sensing and target detection, Lidar provides the most complex and diverse options to date. The technology used by each type of Lidar system is often not only different in the light source, but also in the “ranging” and “imaging” methods. Some mature Lidars are entering the stage of mass production. But new Lidar technology is generally considered more promising, though it is currently only in the R&D or proof-of-concept stage. Inevitably, these Lidars have huge differences in cost, size, and performance.
More complicated is that increasing Lidar manufacturers (estimated 70-80) have squeezed the market, and mergers and acquisitions have been fierce. Some Lidar companies have gained new life by choosing SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company). Many start-ups see SPAC as another way of financing and entering the public equity market.
The market will become more complex. As Lidar companies pursue different technologies, automakers and first-tier companies have divergent views on how to apply Lidar to which applications. But the demand for Lidar in the automotive industry is real. In the ADAS field alone, companies have received 15 to 16 different Lidar quotations. Despite the differentiation of the Lidar market, automobile companies are beginning to bet on deployment in four to five years in the next 18 months.
Since 1995, two researchers from Carnegie Mellon University achieved the first semi-autonomous driving in human history. Autonomous driving has been a representative of the top black technology in the United States, and active in various research institutes and university laboratories. However, as the core sensor, Lidar is full of controversy when it comes to autonomous driving.
In 2004, when autonomous driving had just begun to emerge, the four sets of sensors that autonomous driving relies on have all appeared, that is, Lidar, millimeter-wave radar, ultrasonic radar, and cameras. Among them, Lidar has been widely relied on, but Lidar is also the most controversial.
As the development of new energy vehicles has become a national strategy in China, autonomous driving has landed in many cities across the country. “Intelligent Connected Vehicle Technology Roadmap 2.0” proposes that by 2025, partially automated driving (PA) and conditional automated driving (CA), which are equivalent to L2 and L3, will account for more than 50% of car sales, and highly automated driving (HA, equivalent to L4) began to enter the market. As of February 1, this year, at least six automakers are expected to launch mass-produced models equipped with Lidar this year, including NEXTEV, XPEV US, Great Wall Automobile, BMW, and so on.
Data show that in 2019, the global market size of Lidar is about $1.65 billion. The agency predicts that it is expected to exceed $10 billion by 2025, and it is expected to reach $24 billion in 2030.
The trend of smart cars is surging, and the industry chain has attracted much attention. In the context of the government encouraging the development of smart connected cars in China, many car companies and technology companies have poured into the autonomous driving market, and related Lidar companies may establish new production lines or announce new products.
As a representative of global AI visual holographic AR companies, as well as the company that Weibo has a strategic investment of 170 million dollars, the recent performance of WIMI Hologram Cloud is also eye-catching. In the field of Lidar, WIMI seems to be catching up with it. Since the announcement of the patent of the 3D holographic pulse laser processing device for optical holography, many industry application customers have shown strong market demand. Thus, WIMI has decided to develop the 3D holographic pulse Lidar product, “WIMI HoloPulse Lidar”, to further expand the company’s holographic product portfolio matrix.
WIMI HoloPulse Lidar is a multi-functional holographic pulse 3D solid-state Lidar, the goal is to reach a detection distance of more than 200m and can capture high-resolution 3D holographic images. Lidar uses MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) micro galvanometer to provide high resolution, long detection range, and wide field of view. Through dynamic control, Lidar can flexibly adjust the vertical resolution and frame rate, such as allowing the focus area to be dynamically defined. Lidar uses solid-state silicon detectors, which can reliably detect weak reflections from distant objects and strong reflections from close objects. Digital signal processing is to determine the precise position in the three-dimensional space through filtering, correlation, and statistical analysis. The point cloud generated by the Lidar sensor can map the sensor environment in 3D. A single point cloud can be composed of tens of thousands of distance points (a single distance measurement), which contains holographic data of 3D original environment information. The software stack extracts a lot of abstract information from the holographic data, transmits commands to the actuator through deep neural network control, and presents 3D holographic data.
The WIMI HoloPulse Lidar Lidar solution provides software development kits that match the hardware products, including target detection, classification, and counting functions. Combined with software recognition algorithms, it can provide solutions for many fields, such as autonomous driving, environment perception, 3D holographic imaging, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), traffic management, and 3D printing, which quickly expands the application market of holographic technology.
According to some public information, WIMI focuses on holographic cloud services, mainly in vehicle-mounted AR holographic HUD, 3D holographic pulse Lidar, head-mounted light field holographic equipment, holographic semiconductor, holographic cloud software, holographic car navigation, and other professional fields, covering multiple links of AR technology, including holographic vehicle-mounted AR technology, 3D holographic pulse Lidar technology, holographic vision semiconductor technology, holographic software development, holographic AR advertising technology, holographic AR entertainment technology, holographic ARSDK payment, interactive holographic communication, and so on. It is a holographic cloud comprehensive technical solution provider.
2021 is the first year of Lidar’s mass production, and it will begin to penetrate the field of assisted driving vehicles. Some customers have fixed points, and those models will be mass-produced in 2021-2023. However, most models are still not equipped with Lidar. Moreover, Lidar’s further penetration of mass-produced cars has been relatively clear. With the declining cost and gradual increase in volume, the penetration rate of Lidar in mass-produced vehicles will continue to increase. Therefore, major Lidar manufacturers are closely cooperating with OEM and Tier1, and good technical exchanges, project pre-research, and close cooperation are expected to lay a solid foundation for future customer projects.
In-vehicle applications represent the forefront of current Lidar technology, and the focus of the next wave is consumer electronics.
No matter what kind of innovation, the ultimate positioning is nothing more than two: Either reduce operating costs by means of improving efficiency or use model innovation as a means to improve economic benefits. From the perspective of consumer electronics, the only way to go is model innovation. The future direction is AR/VR, and Lidar is the necessary key to realize this path.