The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance

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Automobile technology is advancing quickly, therefore it is important for drivers to be aware of how to use new features. An autonomous vehicle, or a driverless vehicle, is one that can function without any human intervention, through its ability to sense surroundings by using sensors like LiDAR. World’s leading automobile companies such as Audi, Toyota, Waymo, Hyundai, Google, Apple, Valeo, and so on, are effortlessly working in the field of autonomous vehicles (figure 1). 

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The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 1: Companies working in the field of autonomous vehicles

LiDAR sensors i.e., light detection and ranging technology sensors allow autonomous vehicles to make exact decisions by detecting objects in the surroundings. It is the foundation for modern autonomous vehicles (AVs) due to two crucial features: depth estimation and object detection. It has several uses in robotics, advanced driver assistance systems, level five autonomous driving, and other sectors requiring 3D interpretation and display of pictures because of its great sensitivity and precision. LiDAR not only improves comfort but also helps avoid serious accidents. The development of LiDAR sensors and the switch from mechanical to the most recent FMCW and flash technologies is the latest advancement in this domain. 

How does LiDAR work in self-driving vehicles? 

A vehicle can observe its surroundings thanks to LiDAR. To produce a 3D representation of the surroundings, LiDAR measures object distances in relation to the self-driving vehicle’s position. It determines the distance travelled by the light by computing the time between the transmission and reception of laser pulses using the speed of light. LiDAR emits lacs of laser pulses every second and generates 3D representations of the surroundings’ items. When LiDAR detects objects, it recognizes them (such as cars, people, potholes, and road conditions) and forecasts their behaviours to determine how the vehicle will respond to them. As shown in figure 2, the central car equipped with LiDAR estimates the position of nearby cars using the time of flight mechanism. 

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 2: Distance estimation using LiDAR technology (Image Credits: Andrey Suslov / Getty Images)

Patent filing statistics of LiDARequipped autonomous vehicles 

The use of LiDAR in autonomous vehicles isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s amazing how quickly its definition is changing every day as high-profile brands and companies are using it in their long-term plans with new technologies adding up every dayAs per our inhouse tool XLSCOUT’s Portfolio Survey, a lot of patents have been filed in this domain. Out of the dataset of 33,141 patent filings considered, 7920 patents have been granted and 13194 patent applications are still pending (figure 3). Further, more than 10,000 applications are in their examination phase. 

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 3: statistics of patents filed on autonomous vehicles equipped with LiDAR technology
The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 4: Key concepts used in autonomous vehicles patent filings

Figure 5 depicts the inventions of the top players in this domain with their forward citation frequency. Players such as Waymo, General Motors (GM), Baidu, Ford, Toyota, and Zoox have filed many patents on autonomous vehicles with LiDAR technology and have emerged to be prominent players in this domain. Their inventions have gained a lot of attention as shown by their forward citation frequency trend. 

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 5: Core inventions by the top assignee in LiDAR-equipped autonomous vehicles

LiDAR technology supplying companies 

The Graph in figure 6 illustrates the patent applications filed by leading players during the last 10 years in LiDAR equipped autonomous vehicles technology domain. Amongst different companies, Valeo stands first in the row by filing 2305 patent applications. Out of these applications, 325 patents are active, and 958 applications are still in the examination phase (figure 7). 

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 6: Patents filed in LiDAR-equipped autonomous vehicles technology domain by top players in the last 10 years
The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 7: LiDAR technology Patent portfolio of Valeo

In addition to these LiDAR manufacturers, other companies that are emerging in the LiDAR market include, SICK, Ibeo, SiLC technologies, Beijing Yijing, Hesai, Neuvition, Robosense, Ouster, Quanergy, Leishen, Zvision, DJI Livox, Cepton, Sense photonics, Innovusion, Benewake, and other.  

Using XLSCOUT competitive landscape analysis of 24,198 patents in the last 5 years, it was observed that Ouster Technologies, Inc., SiLC Technologies, Inc., and Beijing Yijing Technology Co. Ltd. are the most active new entrants in LiDAR technology, as displayed in figure 8. 

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 8: New entrants in the last five years in LiDAR technology

Automotive LiDAR market analysis 

The LiDAR market is expected to grow significantly in the coming time, owing to the consistent growth in autonomous vehicles. According to a precedence research report, the global automotive LiDAR market will expand at a CAGR of 28.5% in the period of 2021-2030 and is expected to be worth around USD 4.5 billion by 2030, as shown in figure 9 (https://www.precedenceresearch.com/automotive-lidar-market). At present, North America is dominating the automotive LiDAR market with the US playing a prominent role in this technology.  

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 9: LiDAR market in 2021-2030 precedence research

According to Global Market Insights, the LiDAR market is going to witness 80% gains in the Asia-Pacific region by 2032, owing to an increase in the investments and R&D activities in this geographical region (https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/automotive-lidar-market#:~:text=Automotive%20LiDAR%20Market%20size%20exceeded,positively%20influence%20the%20industry%20growth.). Countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea, owing to their high market share (figure 10), are considered to play a dominant role in this region in the near future.  

The Role of LiDAR in Enhancing Autonomous Vehicle Performance
Figure 10: Automotive LiDAR market in Asia-Pacific, 2032 (www.gminsights.com)

Conclusion  

Autonomous or self-driven vehicles have brought a revolution in the transportation industry owing to their several advantages including higher safety, improved mobility, support in medical emergencies, assisting old age people, and so on. The success of self-driven vehicles depends on their ability to accurately map 3-dimensional scenes around them and respond to their surroundings in real time. LiDAR has proven to be a key technology for the advancement of autonomous vehicles by providing fast, high-resolution and in-depth sensing.  

To accelerate the success of the autonomous vehicle industry many industries are showing their interest in collaboration. In recent times, many big companies like Mercedes, Honda, BMW, and so on, have partnered with the start-ups such as Valeo and Innoviz to progress in autonomous vehicles. The start-ups have new ideas, and the big players have the infrastructure, and together they can excel in the production and growth of new technology. 

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