LiDAR market: promising, but caution needed

Writen by Anne-Françoise Pelé for EETIMES Europe – LiDAR acts as an eye with a 360° view, and many autonomous-vehicle developers have been using it to build a three-dimensional map of the environment around the vehicle. The road to mass adoption, however, is paved with new challenges and added pressure. 

Automotive LiDAR traces its origins back to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge, an AV race to foster development of fully autonomous ground vehicles. LiDAR was introduced in the second edition of the race, in 2005. Two years later, five of the six vehicles finishing the race had roof-mounted LiDAR units. Since then, LiDAR innovation has moved fast, and automotive applications are expected to be the main drivers in the next five years, according to market research firm Yole Développement (Lyon, France). 

“The LiDAR market for ADAS is set to achieve an annual growth of 114%, from US$19 million in 2019 to US$1.7 billion in 2025,” said Alexis Debray, a technology and market analyst at Yole. Expectations are high, but the LiDAR market currently faces headwinds and calls for bold moves.

Prices drop, but volumes are low

Historically, LiDAR systems have been too expensive to mass-produce for consumer vehicles. The trend is now reversing: Different LiDAR manufacturers have defined aggressive strategies, and the price drop over the past three years has been massive.

Last year, Luminar announced LiDAR-based solutions for under US$1,000. Velodyne, which came up with the first real-time 3D LiDAR in 2005, unveiled plans to reach an average unit price of US$600 by 2024, down from US$17,900 in 2017. And Chinese LiDAR manufacturers, whose unit prices are usually one-fifth those of other companies, are already fielding units priced below $1,000 and are gaining market share.

But a price drop does not necessarily imply a volume increase. So far, volumes have not grown significantly, and mass adoption has not yet occurred. “LiDAR must answer a need,” said Debray. “In the industrial market, including manufacturing and logistics, there is a clear trend toward automation, and LiDAR is playing a key role. In automotive, US$600 remains expensive for a car sensor in comparison with ADAS cameras, for which the average selling price is US$80. Therefore, we are now hearing about US$100 LiDAR for short-range automotive applications.”

Although Velodyne’s plan comes with some risks, said Debray, “things needed to change, and price reduction is a necessity for the automotive and the industrial markets.”... Full article