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CES 2024: new lidars for old

10 Jan 2024

Aeva reveals Daimler Truck as major customer; Cepton and Hesai launch new products; SiLC extends range beyond 2 km.

As in previous years, several lidar developers have announced significant developments in technology and commercial traction in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) event in Las Vegas. Here’s our round-up of the latest news:

Aeva and Daimler Trucks deal
As well as the launch of its new “Atlas” lidar aimed at mass-production deployments in the automotive sector, Silicon Valley-based Aeva revealed that it had signed up Daimler Truck as a major customer for the technology.

Under the collaboration, Aeva will supply the Atlas systems to Daimler Truck and also work with Daimler’s software subsidiary Torc Robotics, to enable so-called “Level 4” autonomous vehicle capabilities - initially on Class 8 Freightliner Cascadia trucks.

“Daimler Truck intends to integrate the lidar sensors directly in its production process, making it easy for customers to buy autonomous ready trucks directly out of its manufacturing plants without the need for sensors to be retrofitted,” said Aeva, which announced last week that a production ramp is expected “by mid-decade”.

Aeva specializes in ultra-compact frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) lidar that senses both the position and velocity of objects on the road, and said previously that its technology would be replacing older time-of-flight lidar sensors. It expects initial sales revenues for the Daimler deal by the end of March.

Joanna Buttler, the head of Daimler Truck’s Global Autonomous Technology Group, said: “Together with Torc, we are well on track to offer autonomous trucks to the US market by 2027.”

Those trucks are set to be equipped with sensor sets combining FMCW lidar with radar and camera technology. “This enables safe handling adapted to the respective situation on highways, surface roads and ramps, as well as when turning at controlled intersections,” state the firms.

Aeva CTO and co-founder Mina Rezk said of the latest product launch: “Atlas is the key development that will enable OEMs to equip their vehicles with advanced safety and automated driving features at highway speeds by addressing challenging use cases that could not be solved before.

“Importantly, we believe it will accelerate the industry’s transition to FMCW lidar technology, which we believe is increasingly considered to be the end state for lidar, offering greatly enhanced perception solutions that leverage its unique instant velocity data.”

Cepton claims longer range with 905 nm lasers
Cepton, Aeva’s Silicon Valley neighbor, also unveiled a new automotive-grade lidar unit at CES. Named “Ultra”, it is said to feature a “revolutionary” beam-steering technology, dubbed “MagnoSteer”.

“Ultra is the world’s slimmest adaptive, long-range lidar, designed based on real OEM requirements for next-generation consumer vehicle ADAS and automated driving capabilities,” stated the company, claiming a range of 300 meters for objects with 10 per cent reflectivity.

With a 12 W power rating, the new unit is said to consume less than half the power of typical scanning systems that deliver comparable performance, while taking up just a quarter of the space.

Brunno Moretti, Ception’s senior VP of product and commercial operations, added: “Powered by MagnoSteer, Ultra breaks the performance bottleneck of 905 nm lidars while taking advantage of a mature, mass-market-ready laser technology.”

Moretti says that the extended range is thus achieved without the need for fiber laser components operating at a longer wavelength - a technology associated with higher cost and much higher power consumption.

Company CEO and co-founder Jun Pei added: “By utilizing our experience in industrializing lidar for mass-market applications, we expect to reduce Ultra’s development time by a third as compared to the past, thereby shortening time to market.”

Hesai goes behind windshield
Not to be outdone, China’s Hesai revealed two new lidar products at the Las Vegas event. Rated as a market leader by analysts at Yole Intelligence, the Chinese company is claiming a range performance of 300 meters for 10 per cent reflectivity objects with its “AT512” unit - and a maximum range beyond a quarter of a mile.

“This game-changing lidar means AT512 equipped ADAS systems will have 40 per cent more reaction time to avoid dangerous road conditions and significantly improve transportation safety,” says the company, with CEO and co-founder David Li adding:

“Our core belief that intelligent manufacturing needs to be part of our R&D efforts has helped us move beyond traditional 1550 nm laser-based lidar to more advanced 905 nm technology as borne out by the superior performance, quality, and reliability of our AT512.”

Hesai also unveiled its ultra-thin “ET25” product, which is designed to be integrated behind a vehicle's windshield for ADAS applications. It boasts 250 meters of range at 10% reflectivity.

Li said: “We're already working with leading OEMs to integrate the ET25 into series production vehicles with the start of production planned for Q1 of 2025.”

The Chinese company also says it has now completed construction of its “Maxwell” innovation facility - said to feature the world's most advanced lidar testing lab - and adds that it has signed a supply deal with “one of the world's most revered automotive brands” to provide its AT128 lidar for a flagship model of electric vehicle.

SiLC goes beyond 2km with Eyeonic
SiLC Technologies, which like Aeva is an FMCW lidar specialist, used the CES event to promote the ultra-long-range performance of its “Eyeonic Vision” sensor - claiming a new world-best of beyond 2 kilometers.

The extended performance and precision of Eyeonic is said to be pivotal in applications such as uncrewed autonomous system detection and discrimination, a field where SiLC is collaborating closely with defense-oriented autonomy specialist High Point Aerotechnologies (HPA).

SiLC CEO Mehdi Asghari said: “Our latest achievement with the Eyeonic Vision Sensor is not just about setting new records; it's about enabling practical, real-world applications that require the highest levels of precision and reliability.

“Our collaboration with HPA to incorporate lidar into their counter-UAS systems is a testament to the versatility and impact of our technology.”

HPA’s CTO, Jeff Maas, added: “SiLC has made tremendous strides in advancing lidar technology for perimeter security and drone detection.

“Their investments in extending range, polarimetry, waveform control, and optical signal processing for the Eyeonic Vision Sensor endeavors to enhance target differentiation of ambiguous targets in clutter-limited environments. This lidar technology is a crucial complement to radar and visible/infrared camera sensors.”

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