While many insiders expect significant consolidation in the LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensing market this year, the number of new technology announcements, product launches, and market and technical analyses continues to grow as companies battle for attention in the ADAS and AV space. One promising new technology approach from Blackmore is frequency modulation, which we cover in a feature in this issue.

The global market for LiDAR is booming, with automotive being the highest profile and fastest growing slice of a larger pie that includes applications for unmanned aerial vehicles, mechanical, environmental, and topographical sectors, according to Global Market Insights, Inc. In a just-released report, it predicts growth from a current market value of more than $1 billion to over $10 billion by 2025. It cites a rise in the demand for 3D imaging solutions, of which LiDAR is a part, due to the increasing development of smart city projects and expanding civil engineering and manufacturing applications. The technology’s use of short wavelengths to detect small objects with high accuracy has opened up new possibilities in many sectors.

LiDAR solutions are increasingly used in the bathymetric market is growing due to changing climatic conditions in coastal areas, rising sea levels, and the increasing severity of extreme natural events. Advances in cloud computing and big data processing are driving usage in long duration surveying and mapping applications. The environment market is expanding to study the ecosystem of various wildlife species and to measure the vertical density of forest canopy to monitor forest fires and identify forest areas that enhance wood-quality productivity. An upsurge in the number of supportive government initiatives has encouraged enterprises to invest in LiDAR-based research and technology for public-sector applications such as flood relief and management.

The two fastest-growing sectors are unmanned aerial vehicles (CAGR>37%) and driverless cars (>50%). For UAVs, the technology is used to produce high-resolution digital surfaces for terrain and elevation models. The widespread demand for LiDAR sensors, in developmental driverless cars now and in production vehicles later, is expected to push volumes up and prices down, with a large number of R&D activities expected to drive innovations in the solid-state LiDAR market.

The growth in vehicle-related LiDAR technology is influencing the growth in market and technology research tracking the industry developments.

A new market intelligence report by BIS Research released late last year predicts the total automotive LiDAR market to grow from an estimated $353.0 million in 2017 to $8.32 billion by 2028, representing a CAGR of 29.6% during the forecast period. It attributes the high growth rate to an increasing focus of OEMs on ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) in new vehicles, and it expects a sharp decline in manufacturing prices due to a higher rate of adoption to augment the growth.

A more technology focused look at the LiDAR topic by Yole Développement, extracting data from numerous in-house reports on automotive and industrial applications, estimated that the total LiDAR market reached $1.3 billion in 2018, and it expects it to reach $6 billion by 2024, with 70% of the total market dedicated to automotive applications—at a 64% CAGR.

With its second LiDAR for Automotive & Industrial Applications report, Yole investigated the latest technical challenges and strategies of LiDAR companies with help from corporate partners System Plus Consulting and patent and intelligence expert Knowmade. The analysis shows a big jump in new players within the LiDAR IP (intellectual property) landscape since 2010, with impressive growth in patenting activity.

Yole points out that the automotive LiDAR story began with the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge autonomous vehicle race. In the second instance of that race in 2005, LiDAR was introduced, and two years later five of the six vehicles finished that race with roof-mounted LiDAR. The research firm also noted that the development of robotic vehicles is accelerating, and one leader has emerged. “Waymo has a fleet of more than 600 vehicles today,” commented Alexis Debray, Ph.D. Technology & Market Analyst at Yole. “Several announcements have been made about increasing this number up to 82,000 vehicles using Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Jaguar I-Pace SUVs.”

He detailed the technical issues for LiDAR players at the SSI International Conference 2019 and his presentation available on i-micronews.com. On the carmaker side, Yole singled out Audi and its LiDAR supplier Valeo for its pioneering use of LiDAR in the A8, launched at the end of 2017. System Plus Consulting analyzed that innovative laser scanner from Valeo and Ibeo in a deep-dive report and teardown.

So, as the number of new technology announcements and product launches continues to grow, and the industry inevitably consolidates around the strongest survivors, we will continue to bring you the latest from the pages of Autonomous Vehicle Technology.