Semiconductor manufacturers are trying to seize a share of the growing LiDAR market as autonomous vehicles ramp up. One of these companies is Analog Devices. In a recent phone interview with FierceElectronics, Ron Kapusta, an ADI fellow at Analog Devices, discussed the issues surrounding LiDAR as companies strategize on the best way to move forward with the technology.
Kapusta said that one of the current shortcomings in LiDAR is a shortage of parts optimized for the application. “LiDAR systems are currently almost completely built with components developed for other markets. These technologies are not optimized for the cost and performance needed for LiDAR.”
For its part, Analog Devices has released a number of parts for LiDAR including analog-to-digital converters, digital-to-analog converters, and accelerometers. The company also offers several LiDAR development platforms.
Kapusta noted that one tradeoff with LiDAR involves size vs. thermal management. Because current LiDAR technology sometimes involves large, bulky components, users are often forced to trade off small size for heat management considerations, as current-generation LiDAR boxes require a lot of area to dissipate heat.
The rugged environmental considerations in which LiDAR must operate is also a factor. Users place a premium upon LiDAR systems to withstand the rugged environmental conditions vehicles encounter, including shock, vibration and high temperatures, according to Kapusta.
The newness and complexity of LiDAR and other vehicle technologies also dictate levels of knowledge and expertise that is not always readily available in the same companies. This will lead to many companies teaming with others to develop technologies and share expertise.
“There will be a lot of partnerships,” said Kapusta, who added Analog Devices is looking into them. “Because LiDAR is partially an optical system, there will be a number of partnerships to leverage companies’ optical expertise.”
Not surprisingly, the cost of LiDAR components and systems is a hurdle. Kapusta believes higher levels of component integration will eventually help reduce costs. “We’re capable of integrating a lot of electronics,” said Kapusta. “We are actively engaged in activities to determine the right level of integration, both internally and with partners.”
As the cost of LiDAR systems comes down, the performance needed to achieve higher degrees of vehicle autonomy can be achieved. “One of the major shortcomings of LiDAR is cost. If you remove cost as a barrier, high performance with LiDAR is achievable,” Kapusta said.
Kapusta noted that many companies trying to achieve autonomous driving in stages. Right now, the focus on Level 2 autonomous vehicles, which have some self-driving features.