The LiDAR Coalition Against Elon Musk

Above: Omer David Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder of Innoviz (left) and Elon Musk

Two of the world’s experts in safety LiDAR technologies, established a new industrial group aiming to promote the deployment of lidar-based intelligent infrastructure and automotive safety technology. Ted Tewksbury, CEO of California-based Velodyne Lidar, and Omer David Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder of Israel-based Innoviz Technologies, along with AEye, Cepton, Continental, Ouster and Quanergy Systems inaugurated last month The Lidar Coalition activity in a coordinated effort to convince decision and policy makers to adopt broad lidar deployment.

Tewksbury and Keilaf published a letter on Auto Jobs Now to explain the motived of the new advocacy group: “In recent years we have seen a tragic rise in pedestrian fatalities on our nation’s roadways. Public awareness campaigns and enforcement can only go so far in stemming the tide — we must embrace innovative technologies to prevent crashes and reverse this trend. This is why we are forming the Lidar Coalition, a global group of companies that, through U.S. policy advocacy, is dedicated to deployment of lifesaving technology that has the most potential to prevent harm to vulnerable road users.

3D map of the surrounding environment

“According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths in the U.S. jumped by 46 percent to 6,516 in 2020 from 4,457 in 2011. Even more alarming, the most recent statistics from NHTSA project that 42,915 people died on U.S. roadways in 2021, the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the highest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 13 percent over 2020, which outpaced the 10.5% increase in overall fatalities.”

Nightlife LiDAR image produced by Innoviz' sensor
Nightlife LiDAR image produced by Innoviz’ sensor

Light Detection and Ranging, or “lidar,” is a remote sensing method that uses pulsed light to create a 3D map of the surrounding environment. Lidar is an important component in emerging transportation technologies including smart infrastructure, traffic management, autonomous vehicles (“AV”), advanced driver assist systems (“ADAS”), and many other applications. According to the letter, “Light Detection and Ranging, or lidar, can “see” at the speed of light and in all lighting conditions, including at dusk and at night.

“LiDAR ‘a fool’s errand'”

The biggest opponent of the The Lidar Coalition is Tesla’s owner, Elon Musk, known also as a vocal opposer of LiDAR. “It’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very hard to get out of,” He said during February 2018 earnings call. “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.” In April 2019 he gave a presentation on Tesla’s autonomous driving project,  calling LiDAR “a fool’s errand”.

He said: “LIDAR can be incredibly expensive, and it’s a costly bet for most companies. They can make the job of selling self-driving cars to customers practically impossible thanks to the added costs. But companies that use LIDAR are already working on reducing those costs. “They are expensive sensors that are unnecessary.”

But on May 20, 2021, a Tesla Model Y was spotted driving the roads equipped with a LiDAR sensor system on its roof. In October 2021 a similar rig was observed at Illinois. Did he change his mind? There has been no official explanation from Tesla regarding this interesting issue, although unofficial commentators have guessed that Tesla is using LiDAR in order to train its vision cameras, and not to control its own Autonomous Driving Suite.

Innoviz Co-founder stepped down and left the company

Above: Oren Rosenzweig (left) and Tali Chen

Innoviz Technologies, announced a series of management team appointments. Oren Rosenzweig, Co-founder of the company, is stepping down from his position as Chief Business Officer and Board roles, effective immediately, to pursue new opportunities. Rosenzweig will continue in an active advisory role through summer 2022. He is replaced by Tali Chen, which will oversee the Company’s business development activities, establish sales targets and KPIs, and implement, report and review strategic sales and marketing plans.

Chen most recently served as CBO for DSP Group, a provider of semiconductors for wireless communications devices. DSPG  was acquired by Synaptics in December 2, 2021 for $549 million. Prior to her tenure at DSP Group, Chen served in corporate development roles for RADA Electronics, a global provider of avionics and Military radar systems.

Based in Rosh Hayeen (near Tel Aviv), Innoviz provides LiDAR technologies and perception software for the Automotive industry. A month ago the company announced that one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world has selected Innoviz to become its direct LiDAR supplier across multiple brands. The selection follows more than two years of extensive diligence and qualification, and will increase Innoviz’s forward-looking order book by $4 billion to $6.6 billion.

Innoviz also announced the appointments of Scott Craig and Brijesh Shukla as country managers of the U.S. and Japan, respectively. Craig brings decades of experience in the semiconductor and automotive industries, previously serving at onsemi where he was responsible for OEM business development at Ford Motor Company worldwide, Stellantis and Argo – worldwide. Shukla brings twenty years of experience in direct customer-facing roles for companies such as Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi.

According to Fact.MR, The global automotive LiDAR market expected to reach a valuation of US$ 3 Bn by 2031, with sales growing at a 19.5% CAGR, compared with $43o million in 2021. Based on technology, the solid-state LiDAR segment will account for 60% of the total market share. Increasing sales of autonomous vehicles will spur demand for automotive LiDAR systems.

Innoviz Introduced a New Category of HD LiDAR Sensor

Tel Aviv-based Innoviz Technologies, announced Innoviz360 – a new HD LiDAR architecture that provides 10 times resolution compared with current automotive LiDAR sensors. Unlike traditional spinner solutions that are performance limited with only up to 128 scanning lines, the new, lightweight, Innoviz360 LiDAR allows multiple scanning software configurations with up to 1280 scanning lines (10x) at a cost-effective price.

Innoviz360’s wide FoV (360 ° x64 ° ) and reduced cost targets the markets of  L4-L5 automotive applications, such as robotaxis, shuttles and trucks, and other applications beyond the automotive space. Innoviz expects samples of its Innoviz 360 HD LiDAR to be available in Q4 2022. “New innovations such as the Innoviz360 running on our open and scalable DRIVE platform can help the industry achieve truly autonomous transportation , ” said Gary Hicok, Senior VP of Engineering at NVIDIA.

Innoviz Co-Founder and CEO, Omer Keilaf, said: “The new architecture breaks through the performance and cost limitations of traditional and standard-resolution 360 spinners”. The new product complements InnovizOne and InnovizTwo, front looking LiDARs that are targeting high level of automation and are optimized for passenger vehicles (L2-L3). Innoviz360 is expected to generate revenues starting in 2023. It adds new total addressable market (TAM) for non-automotive applications of approximately $20B by 2030, in addition to $55B TAM for automotive applications.

 

Obayashi selects Innoviz’s LiDAR for autonomous tower crane

Obayashi, one of the largest Japanese construction companies, choose Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor for a semi-autonomous tower crane in develops. Obayashi intends to deploy the final system in various construction sites throughout Japan. This development is part of a larger Obayashi program to develop autonomous construction tools to be widely used in construction projects. The cooperation between the two companies started at 2018. 

The autonomous operation of the tower crane will be based on integration between the high performance capabilities of the LiDAR sensor and Obayashi’s software. The sensor generates 3D pictures and identifies of people and equipment in construction sites, based on measuring returns of multiple reflections per pixel. Obayashi’s software extracts the data from the sensor, and generates alerts and instructions for the crane’s operator. This joint solution makes operations highly automatic and enhances safety.  

Construction world became a place where we evidence greater processes of adopting autonomous technologies, mainly because construction sites are usually closed and delimited, and the tools in use require performing predefined structured processes. According to a ResearchAndMarkets report, the autonomous construction equipment market is expected to grow to $26.8 billion by 2030. This growth is mainly due to construction boom we witness in many countries, the shortage in professional HR and the increasing demand for higher safety levels in the construction processes.     

Obayashi is one of the largest construction companies in Japan, with $11.8 billion revenue in FY2021. A year ago, the company announced a new cooperation with the American SafeAI Company, a developer of a platform for autonomously operating heavy duty tools. The main goal of this cooperation is to develop a whole ecosystem for an “Autonomous Construction Site”. Together, both companies ran a pilot in a construction site at the Silicon Valley, where they demonstrated disposal of construction waste using an autonomous truck. The truck was a standard Caterpillar truck which was converted to operate autonomously using SafeAI’s platform.

Innoviz targets a business model of Direct Tier-1 Supplier

Above: Omer Keilaf, CEO and co-founder of Innoviz

Innoviz Technologies is building a new business model aimed to position itself as a Direct Tier-1 Supplier of its LiDAR InnovizTwo solution for car manufacturers. The company has developed a solid-state LiDAR technology which was selected by BMW for its fully autonomous car program and for its consumer vehicles. The InnovizOne LiDAR product has also been selected by a leading European Tier 1 automotive company for its shuttle program.

“Innoviz successfully completed an extensive, 12-month Tier 1 supplier audit process conducted by one of the largest car makers in the world, said Omer Keilaf, CEO and co-founder of Innoviz. of Innoviz. “Innoviz is now recognized as a direct supplier as part of the final stage of consideration for a nomination for a L2/L3 program. If received, this recognition would mark an important milestone in our progress.”

During the earnings call following Q3 2021 report, Keilaf explained that working as a Tier-1 supplier will keep the company closer to the car manufacturers, bring bigger deals and reduce the total cost of the systems for the car OEMs. The new business model will be flexible one – and will allow car manufacturers to decide themselves weather they prefer Innoviz to be a Tier-1 or a Tier-2 supplier working with their current Tier-1 suppliers.

Innoviz LiDAR sensor
Innoviz LiDAR sensor

Last week NVIDIA completed the integration of Innoviz Perception Platform with NVIDIA’s DRIVE AGX autonomous vehicle development platform. Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor is also integrated with the NVIDIA DRIVE Sim. This move brings the company into the NVIDIA DRIVE ecosystem. According to Keilaf, most of the American and European car companies are working with NVIDIA platform.

lately it was also selected by JueFX for its Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) solution to improve road safety and traffic alerts for autonomous vehicles in China. JueFX will install Innoviz’s high-performance, solid-state LiDAR on smart city infrastructure and leverage its annotated data to monitor traffic in real time and to send alerts to autonomous vehicles.

Mass production is expected to start in 2023. Meanwhile, the revenues for Q3 2021 were $2.1 million. Innoviz management reaffirmed its forward-looking order book guidance of $2.4 billion, representing the cumulative projected future sales of hardware and perception software through 2030. Innoviz currently has 56 prospective customers in the late stages of technical evaluation.

“Nine are in the RFQ or final commercial negotiations stage. They represent more than $3.4 billion in future potential order book volume. Innoviz expects some of these projects to materialize into contractual relationships by mid-2022.”

Intel and Mobileye develop LiDAR in a Chip

Mobileye announced during CES 2021 this week that it has produced the first prototype of an Automotive LiDAR sensor based on Intel’s Silicon Photonics technology. The new sensor is planned to be installed in its Autonomouse Driving systems in 2025, when the market will be ready for a mass deployment of AVs. According to Prof. Amnon Shashua, President and CEO of Mobileye, the new sensor is based on Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology and Doppler-style algorithms as opposed to the current Time of Flight sensors.

The FMCW sensor provides 4D velocity relative measurements for a distance of up to 300 meters. Its high resolution detection capability reaches 600 points per degree, created by 2 milliom laser pulses per second (2M PPS). The idea is that current approaches and available sensors are too expensive for consumer AVs. Mobileye needs Radars and LiDARs that are both better and cheaper. To reach L5 autonomy it propose three levels of redundancy in the forward-facing field of view (FoV), and for the rest of the FoV, 2 levels of redundancy.

In this scenario, the EV system consists of 360⁰ camera coverage, 360⁰ Radar cocoon and one forward-facing LiDAR sensor. In fact, Intel owns a unique Fab capable of putting active and passive optical elements on a chip together, including lasers and optical amplifiers, loaded onto a photonic integrated circuit, PIC.

The goals for the future radar chip are also very agressive: It will be a software-defined imaging radar eqipped with 2,304 virtual channels based on 48 by 48 transmitters and receivers. This radar will be able to detect motorcycles beyond 200m, old tire on the road, 140 meters away and low and small hazards on the road.

Seoul Robotics to employ Cognata LiDAR Simulator

Above: Winter driving in difficult visibility conditions – in Cognata’s synthetic simulator

Cognata was chosen to provide a simulator of LiDAR sensors signals to Seoul Robotics, which develops software for analyzing data coming from the sensors, in order to extract information about the vehicle’s environment. The collaboration deepens Cognata’s grip on the ADAS systems market. Founded in 2016 by the CEO Danny Atsmon, the Rehovot-based (near Tel aviv) Cognata has developed a virtual platform used to train and test autonomous vehicles even before the vehicle hits the road for field tests.

The system is based on several layers: a static environment, a dynamic environment, sensors and cloud interface. The static environment is built from realistic imaging of entire cities, including streets, trees, road defects, etc. The dynamic layer mimics the behavior of other drivers on the road and the sensor layer mimics the information coming from each of the 40 different sensors found today in autonomous vehicles.

The chosen imaging software of Innoviz

Cognata is well acquainted with the field of LiDAR. In December 2019, it was selected by Innoviz to test Innoviz’s LiDAR technology. Cognata’s software can simulates how Innoviz’s LiDAR signals are reflected from different surfaces and materials, and how the sensors will function under different road conditions. A few days later it was also chosen by the Rehovot-based Foresight to test its QuadSight system, based on the use of two infrared cameras and two visible-light cameras, to produce a stereoscopic (three-dimensional) machine vision capability.

The agreement with Seoul Robotics is Cognata’s second major deal in Korea. In August 2020, it was selected by Hyundai MOBIS to supply a simulator for the development of ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles. Hyundai MOBIS is a Tier 1 supplier of the Korean automotive industry and manufactures auto parts for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis Motors.