“Investors have no clue, and it’s a very difficult sector because each company’s technology is very different from each other,” said Omer Keilaf, CEO of Israeli lidar company Innoviz, which has partnerships with BMW, Magna and Aptiv, among others. “Everybody is coming up with claims and promises.”
For the uninitiated, lidar can be complicated. There are different wavelengths at which the laser pulses can be transmitted — typically 905 nanometers or 1,550 nanometers. Some lidar devices use rotating parts, though for automotive purposes, the industry is gravitating toward solid-state and digital lidars.
Some use amplitude modulation — sending a beam of light and measuring the time it takes to return — while others use frequency modulation, which produces a continuous wave of light.
No matter the approach, lidar companies and automakers grapple with the same challenges. They’re attempting to optimize the range, resolution, reflectivity, power consumption and cost, which are all at constant odds with one another.
“There’s such a diversity in architectures, and each has a very long list of problems that developers need to overcome,” said Tom Jellicoe, an analyst at TTP, an independent technology consulting firm in the U.K. “All of these companies seem to be founded on one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. It’s the guys who have done a good job filling in the other pieces that can make a credible case that they might get to the end.”