You might want to keep an eye on Quanergy Systems. They’re a new “provider of sensors and software used for real-time capture and processing of 3D mapping data,” and they just received $30 million in VC funding.
In an official statement, the company said it plans to use the money to speed up the development and commercialization of its LiDAR products. They claim that the LiDAR devices “include a range of 300 meters, centimeter accuracy, 360 degree field of view, all-weather capability, compact size, light weight, low power consumption, and the lowest price point.”
But this isn’t LiDAR you’d use for mapping, per se, as it uses only 8 lasers. But that’s enough for it to perceive the rough contours of objects, which is why the LiDAR unit is being sold to OEM car manufacturers. At $250 flat it would be the least expensive LiDAR unit yet built for self-driving or semi-automated cars. It would also be the smallest, as using solid-state technology has allowed the company to make it roughly the size of a credit card. Quanergy plans to follow it with a LiDAR sensor the size of a postage stamp and costing only $100.
The main selling points (besides the price, obviously) are that Quanergy can mass-produce the sensors to the automakers’ specifications, and that the LiDAR can “punch through weather.” This would allow it to sense objects through rain and snow, which is obviously important for automated vehicles that are going to be driving outside… where there’s weather. For the doubtful, Quanergy seems to have the patents to back it up.
As Automotive IT News points out, this sensor seems like it could be the holy grail for automotive LiDAR, which has been prohibitively expensive for mass-market cars. “If Quanergy can deliver on its promises,” they wrote, “it’s clear that affordable LiDAR has arrived.”
Mercedes Benz certainly thinks so, as they’ve signed a deal with Quanergy. The company is also working with Hyundai-Kia and Renault-Nissan-Infiniti.
They may seem to have cornered the market pretty quickly, but Quanergy isn’t alone in this space. I wrote in SPAR a few months back that Google, frustrated with the high price of third-party LiDAR units, had decided to start developing its own LiDAR as part of their self-driving car project. The Automative IT News article lists at least one other, and this is not even to mention Velodyne’s ongoing efforts. It seems that the development of LiDAR for self-driving automobiles might be a serious new growth area for the technology.
And a possible driver of cheaper, lighter LiDAR for mounting on… a UAV?