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MobiusTrend, the fintech market research organization, recently released a research report "Lidar + AI vision - WIMI Hologram Cloud, Apple and Sony's Ambition in Unmanned Driving Solutions." With the upgrading of global autonomous driving technology, lidar has gradually become the focus of attention from all walks of life. The previous autopilot technology mainly used visual cameras + millimeter-wave radar, focusing on artificial intelligence algorithms, and Tesla is the representative of car companies. When entering the L3 level of autonomous driving, various reports all believe that lidar will be used with a high probability.
According to data, the current definition of autonomous driving levels, that is, L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5 represent assisted driving, partial automatic driving, conditional automatic driving, highly automatic driving, and fully automatic driving, respectively.
Since 2020, many automobile manufacturers such as Chana Auto, Guangzhou Automobile, SAIC, XPEV US, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW have announced that they will launch cars with L3 functions. Sinolink Securities believes that L3 is a watershed for autonomous driving, representing the transformation of initiative from people to cars. The lidar is likely to become the standard L3 level.
Currently, autonomous driving technology is divided into two groups, one using camera + millimeter-wave radar, while the other uses lidar. For cost considerations, L2 level autonomous driving is dominated by cameras + millimeter-wave radar. However, as a representative of the camera + millimeter-wave radar technology, Tesla has frequently been repeatedly exposed to driving accidents. If it wants to upgrade autonomous driving technology, it is bound to use higher precision lidar.
In the past, the camera + millimeter-wave radar technology represented by Tesla was more used in the autonomous driving field below L2. With the upgrading of global autonomous driving technology, the L3 level has become a watershed for car companies to use different autonomous driving technologies. Judging from the choices of many car companies, higher precision lidar has become an important path to achieve L3 level automatic driving.
A research report by Sinolink Securities shows that in order to achieve high-frequency and accurate rotation, its mechanical structure is complicated, with an average failure time of only 1,000-3,000 hours, which is significantly different from the minimum 13,000 hours required by vehicle regulations, and it is difficult to achieve pre-installation mass production. Semi-solid MEMS and rotating mirrors are currently the most widely used, but they also have the shortcoming of a short effective detection range, while solid-state lidars are still immature.
It is worth mentioning that Industrial Securities believes that the current in-vehicle lidar gradually enters the growth period from the introduction period, and the uncertainty is greater. In the future, the ability of the backbone of the team, the selection and R&D of technical routes, the development of mass production customers, and the financing support ability will influence the competitive landscape of lidar during the growth period.
Ushering in the "first year of the outbreak"
2021 may be the best and hottest year in history for lidar. Different from the prosperity brought about by the almost frantic influx of capital into the industry around 2017, this year's lidar industry has been hot with justified reasons.
After several years of development and accumulation, in this year, the lidar industry finally ushered in the time to move forward with mass production and large-scale commercialization. Some media even referred to this year as the "the first year of outbreak," "the first year of pre-installation," and "the eve before mass production."
At the beginning of 2021, lidar concept stocks have collectively strengthened, and various manufacturers that have been cultivating for many years have continued to take action. In addition to those already existed companies in the industry, many technology giants have also extended their business territory to the field of lidar. At the end of 2020, Huawei entered the lidar industry with a high profile. At the summit hosted by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, Huawei not only released its first 96-line lidar, but also made bold words that it plans to reduce the mass production cost to $200 in the future. Japan's Sony Corporation also released a time-of-flight sensor designed to help lidar reduce costs in February this year.
The giant companies that have just deployed autonomous driving have also chosen lidar one after another. For example, Apple has started to negotiate with suppliers of lidar self-driving car sensors for their "iCar" in March this year.
As a representative company of holographic AI vision, WIMI Hologram announced that it has obtained a patent for a waveform generating and processing device for optical holography, for reasons to assist the application of 3D holographic pulse lidar industry and derive scene applications into the field of unmanned driving. WIMI has decided to develop the 3D holographic pulse lidar product, "WIMI HoloPulse LiDAR", to further expand the company's holographic product portfolio matrix.
It is understood that WIMI Hologram Cloud has core intellectual property rights and is not restricted by overseas companies. It owns about 4654 AR holographic contents, 106 software copyrights, and 219 technical patents. Besides, WIMI is committed to using holographic technology to meet the entertainment and business needs of customers and end-users.
According to some public information, WIMI focuses on holographic cloud services, mainly in vehicle-mounted AR holographic HUD, 3D holographic pulse LiDAR, head-mounted light field holographic equipment, holographic semiconductor, holographic cloud software, holographic car navigation, and other professional fields, covering multiple links of AR technology, including holographic vehicle-mounted AR technology, 3D holographic pulse LiDAR technology, holographic vision semiconductor technology, holographic software development, holographic AR advertising technology, holographic AR entertainment technology, holographic ARSDK payment, interactive holographic communication, and so on. It is a holographic cloud comprehensive technical solution provider.
Lidar focuses on autonomous driving and penetrates from extreme performance to low price. After the price of lidar decreases and the penetration rate gradually increases, the competition among various manufacturers will shift from performance indicators to indicators such as reliability, stability, and cost-effectiveness. The lidar + vision solution is expected to become the future autonomous driving solution. The pure vision solution is difficult to be used in the L4 solution alone. More car manufacturers adopt the radar + vision solution, taking the safety of vehicles and passengers as the highest priority, and using lidar in exchange for an increase in safety coverage.
Fundamentally speaking, the reason why lidar can get a full-blown opportunity in 2021 is that lidar has a better detection performance than environmental monitoring sensors such as cameras and millimeter-wave radars. But more importantly, lidar has made a series of breakthroughs in recent years, gradually filling up the shortcomings of the autonomous driving lidar route.
According to the forecast of CICC, the size of the lidar market in China will rapidly rise from 5 billion yuan to nearly 40 billion yuan in the next five years. By 2025, the global lidar market is expected to rise from the current $15 billion to $100 billion. There are indications that, instead of "the beginning of the abandonment of lidar," 2021 is very likely to be the "year of full-scale lidar outbreak."