How lidar hardware and perception software aid OEM differentiation: Sharma

There’s a shift happening right now in the automotive industry that is placing pressure on OEMs to add more technology into vehicles. Not just to accommodate more complex Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), but also to compete in the future of autonomous vehicle production. In a market that’s become commoditized when it comes to performance, how do OEMs differentiate themselves?

Lidar hardware and perception software are the next frontier for enabling ADAS solutions and highway safety experiences. This combination of safe driving at highway speeds is the key to building a successful ADAS that consumers are demanding in their vehicles right now and to meet industry standards for autonomous vehicle driving in the future. But not all lidar and perception software are created equally and the implications for an OEM’s decision extends beyond just what works for today.

What to look for

OEMs are constantly analyzing data and while many know what they would like to have in a lidar solution, it's not always straightforward as to which company in the market can deliver on what they promise and ultimately give control of the whole driving experience to OEMs. Consumers are expecting more advanced features as well.  According to Car and Driver, as technology and vehicle engineering advances, so do ADAS features – these safety systems are now some of the most sought-after features for drivers looking for their next, safer vehicle.

The right lidar solution aims to improve upon existing ADAS features by providing more accurate mapping of a driver’s 360 degree surroundings and faster processing of this data through state-of-the-art sensors and advanced perception software. This innovative, integrated approach in a lidar solution provides OEMs with upgrades to ADAS now and can prepare for Level 3 and above autonomous driving in the future.

Some aspects to keep in mind when deciding on a lidar solution:

Build versus buy. There are some solutions in market that create their product from aftermarket parts - like a jigsaw puzzle, they’re piecing together a final product that isn’t commercially sustainable. Instead, look for a solution that is produced by experienced tech developers with years in the field who manufacture components like the scanning system, receiving system, and algorithms themselves and adapt those components for ADAS. Choose a system focused on the automotive value chain, cost and reliability.

Current product strategy.  Does the lidar solution deliver features and products that fit into your current product strategy? Powertrain is no longer the differentiator - software and safety features are the next industry standard. Choose a solution that gives control of the entire experience of the vehicle to OEMs. A lidar solution’s software should integrate into an OEM’s software, using it as the base to build on to create new and innovative safety features that will delight consumers and elevate ADAS standards. And, with better inputs like high fidelity, low latency, and cutting-edge software, OEMs can accelerate that differentiation feature set that they already have in mind.

Design is sacred. Software is just one part of a lidar solution’s equation. People want to drive beautifully designed cars. Design and form speak to consumers and brands are identified by their design. Look for hardware with sensors that blend into the design of a vehicle. A smaller, cost effective, lighter weight and easily manufactured system can give OEMs the product they are looking for without compromising vehicle aesthetics.

Choosing the right partner

Next generation lidar and perception software should have the data to prove that it can execute on its promises to OEMs. Beyond simple lane keep assist or low-speed autopilot, ADAS systems will need to anticipate dangerous scenarios as they develop in real time and enable vehicles to take rapid, proactive action faster than a human could ever intervene – and all at highway speeds. The ability to detect hidden vehicles on a highway, merging into highway traffic and maintaining optimal performance even during changes in lighting conditions are some of the most difficult scenarios that when tested, are crucial to proving that a lidar solution can provide proof of safety at high speeds.

The race is on

With 34% of consumers saying they will be likely to own an autonomous vehicle in the next 10 years, the pressure is on OEMs to choose a partner whose success is defined by its ability to deliver safe, high speed ADAS features that give OEMs the control they require to integrate a reliable, cost effective and scalable solution.

Sumit Sharma is CEO of MicroVision, an automotive lidar technology provider.