Partnered with BMW and Magna, Innoviz is en route to mass-production of automotive MEMS LiDAR – Interview of Innoviz

Yole Développement (Yole) has recently seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in automotive Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR). There are dozens of different LiDAR technologies, more than a hundred companies involved, and thousands of patents published. In its latest report, LiDAR for Automotive and Industrial Applications 2018, Yole clarifies this diversity and shows the possible routes to the future of automotive LiDAR.

2017 saw the first introduction of a scanning LiDAR into a car, with the Audi A8, a consumer car with level 3 ‘conditional automation’, using the Scala LiDAR from Valeo. 2018 will definitely see the introduction of robotic cars on public roads. Waymo is already offering its fully autonomous car service to selected customers. Automotive LiDAR adoption looks set to continue at a fast pace, with solid state technology potentially providing our cars with better performing and cheaper LiDAR, allowing for autonomy levels 4, ‘high automation’, and 5, ‘full automation’.

Innoviz is a leading provider of automotive LiDAR. Alexis Debray, MEMS & Sensors Technology & Market Analyst at Yole therefore talked to Omer David Keilaf, Innoviz’s Chief Executive Officer. They discuss how Innoviz will deliver automotive grade MEMS LiDAR by 2019 and mass-market LiDAR by 2021 thanks to its collaboration with BMW, and other topics. Read on for their full exchange.

Alexis Debray: Can you please introduce Innoviz and Innoviz’s LiDAR?

Omer David Keilaf: Innoviz is a leading provider of cutting-edge LiDAR remote sensing solutions to enable the mass commercialization of autonomous vehicles. Founded in early 2016 and backed by US$82 million in funding, Innoviz has moved from research and development to mass production with unprecedented speed, becoming one of the first LiDAR providers to deliver a complete product to market. With more than 150 employees worldwide, Innoviz has signed strategic partnerships to manufacture as well as integrate its LiDAR into the autonomous driving systems of market leaders and Tier-1 suppliers. Innoviz is backed by strategic partners and top-tier investors including Aptiv, which was formerly Delphi, Magna International, Samsung Catalyst, SoftBank Ventures Korea, 360 Capital Partners, Glory Ventures, Naver and others.

Our LiDAR technology took a fresh approach to System, MEMS and Detector designs to deliver highly accurate and superior autonomous vehicle sensing capabilities. Our solid-state design enables us to deliver LiDAR in a more compact, reliable device that costs significantly less than any LiDAR currently on the market. We also provide additional layers of advanced algorithms for computer vision, high definition (HD) mapping, Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) and other areas.

The expertise that goes into our innovative LiDAR solution originates from several technical disciplines, optics, communications, computer vision, MEMS, digital signal processing and others. We have gathered some of the leading experts in all those fields.

We are looking to create a very large, very successful, very sustainable business. LiDAR for autonomous vehicles is just the first step. We are also adding a lot of value in areas of computer vision, HD mapping, SLAM, and more, we can deliver the entire autonomous driving stack. Beyond that, our LiDAR technology can also apply to additional market applications in need of advanced sensing technology, such as mapping, fleets and robotaxis, security and surveillance, industrial automation, logistics and more. Right now our focus is on the automotive industry, but we haven’t ruled out other areas for future development.

Innoviz is one of the first LiDAR providers to deliver a complete product to market. Innoviz’s team is over 150 employees worldwide with renowned expertise in various fields such as optics, system, MEMS, computer vision and more. We are located in Israel but expanding globally, with offices already in Silicon Valley, US, and plans to open additional offices in Germany and Japan in 2018.

AD: Can you explain the positioning of MEMS LiDAR compared to other LiDAR technologies concerning performance and availability?

ODK: Nearly everyone in the space agrees that LiDAR is essential to helping autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings, because LiDAR offers object detection and scanning performance that cameras and radar sensors cannot match. The issue with current LiDAR solutions is that most of them still don’t quite deliver the performance required for Level 3-5 autonomous driving, and they are also too big and unreliable to be very practical. Existing solutions are still very expensive, in the many thousands of dollars range. We have already fixed the performance issues with our proprietary system, MEMS and detector designs, and our solid-state design delivers the reliability, durability and compact size required to work with any type of vehicle. We were also able to drive prices way down, while delivering on performance, safety and reliability.

Courtesy of Innoviz

Also, it is worth noting that most solutions are not yet available and that time-to-market is an extremely important criterion. Innoviz already had one solution available in the market and plans to have its automotive-grade solution available by 2019. The company is already deep into mass production. We are always many steps ahead.

During our first year we focused on the development. During the second year we focused and transitioned way ahead of the competition into mass production, and now by year three our focus shifts to provide automotive grade solutions for the mass market. We deliver on all requirements of performance, cost, size, tech maturity, availability and market validation.

AD: LiDARs that use optical phase arrays are also being considered the next generation of automotive LiDAR. Do you see a threat from LiDARs that use optical phase array?

ODK: There are different approaches to LiDAR technology. Some are underperforming in terms of required spec needed to ensure higher levels of autonomy. Others do not align with market timeline and will require many more years of development. We are focusing on the solution we provide, which delivers on all market needs: performance, reliability, safety, cost, size, maturity, validation.

Innoviz’s full system approach provides OEMs with the optimal solution to enable mass commercialization: superior performance, lower cost, safety. We are leading this industry and are pushing forward transitioning to mass production phase.

What really sets our solution apart is the growth and maturity of our solution. As of this month, InnovizPro is our stand-alone LIDAR available now for purchase, no minimum order required, one-product-fits-all solution. InnovizOne built-in automotive-grade LiDAR will be available in 2019.

Courtesy of Innoviz

AD: What is the most important bottleneck for automotive LiDAR today? Is it technical, business, or the current lack of demand?

ODK: The biggest challenge LiDAR makers face at the moment is the cost/maturity that you solve only once you have customers with high volumes. We are the only ones with a solid state LiDAR that already managed to secure a design win with BMW and have partnerships with leading stakeholders. These relationships will help us get to the relevant maturity and will allow us to have access to high volumes.

Another challenge is achieving the type of 3D scanning performance required for fully autonomous driving, at the safety, reliability, cost and size that is required for mass commercialization. Our solution is the only product on the market that addresses all of these factors, and it also happens to be the most mature product offering intelligent 3D scanning for autonomous vehicles. We have already launched InnovizPro to let partners in the automotive industry test and develop the next generation of autonomous driving programs reliably and affordably, and our automotive-grade LiDAR, InnovizOne, will be available in 2019.

AD: What are the main drivers for developing new automotive LiDAR today?

ODK: LiDAR is absolutely essential to enabling the required levels for full autonomy and for also enabling higher levels of autonomy in the L3-L5 range. Delivering a comprehensive mass-market solution that addresses requirements such as performance, safety, reliability, cost and size is a major need for the automotive industry. Delivering such a solution will advance the entire autonomous vehicle market and thus is a major driver.

AD: Do you think there will be different applications for automotive LiDAR, for example short and long range, blind spot and front and back of car?

ODK: That is up to the OEMs to decide. We have seen stakeholders engaged with more than one LiDAR company with the intention that each will provide a focus on certain domain – such as long range, short range, and for different use cases.

AD: Do you think this will lead to having several technologies for LiDAR being applied at the same time?

ODK: Our advanced high performance solid-state technology is the only solution on the market that meets automotive requirements for safety, reliability, performance, affordability, availability, maturity, validation and product size.

We are confident that solid-state LiDAR is the single most important development happening within the vision systems of autonomous vehicles over the next two years. Mechanical LiDARs were fine for initial testing and proving the overall effectiveness of LiDAR technology, but solid-state LiDAR is the only way to achieve better performance at lower costs.

AD: Several companies are investigating or proposing some level of autonomy for cars without using LiDAR, such as Tesla, TuSimple and Cadillac. Do you think LiDAR is mandatory for autonomous driving?

ODK: Yes, LiDAR is an essential technology to help autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings, whether for full autonomy or for levels 3 and 4 of autonomous driving. Even at these levels, it is necessary for vehicles to see their environment more accurately and to identify objects more clearly than cameras and radar sensors can, so we will see LiDAR being integrated into vehicles before we reach full autonomy.

AD: Can you talk about your partnership with BMW and Magna?

ODK: We are honored to be selected by BMW – a leading provider of premium automobiles and one of the most innovative automakers in the autonomous vehicle revolution – for series production of its vehicles, starting in 2021. BMW selected InnovizOne for its unique solid-state, MEMS-based design, as well as for our advanced computer vision capabilities for object detection and classification necessary for Levels 3-5 of autonomous driving.

Courtesy of Innoviz

This is one of the first design contracts within the automotive industry to feature solid-state LiDAR – proving that Innoviz has set the gold standard within the LiDAR market for performance, safety, reliability and price and setting industry standards for LiDAR integration in series production vehicles.

This is the strongest indication yet that solid-state LiDAR is the winner over mechanical spinning and other types of LiDAR technology, as it is one of the first design contracts within the automotive industry to feature solid-state LiDAR.

Also, this announcement is further proof that the industry is on track for series production of autonomous vehicles by 2021, with advanced, automotive-grade LiDAR available to help Level 3-5 autonomous cars “see” their surroundings.

AD: Can you talk about the target price of LiDAR from Innoviz?

ODK: InnovizOne, our automotive-grade LiDAR for levels 3-5 of autonomous driving, will cost in the range of hundreds of dollars, depending on volume. Meanwhile, InnovizPro, our stand-alone LiDAR for testing and development of autonomous vehicles, costs in the single-digit thousands of dollars range.

Courtesy of Innoviz

YD: When can we expect to see a LiDAR from Innoviz in a commercial car?

ODK: Our design win with BMW set a clear timeline for this – 2021. We will also provide early samples of our InnovizOne automotive grade LiDAR in 2019. InnovizPro is available now.

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