Akash Ahire, Analyst, at ACES business vertical of M14 Intelligence has discussed in-detail with VP level personnel of Lasertel about the company’s role in the automotive space and the challenges that the company is facing. Also, the company’s take on the laser diode technology that is best suited in the automotive space and how the competition in the market is driving the deployment of highly precise and effective LiDAR system into the self-driving vehicles.
The interviewee explained the different technologies of the laser diodes the company is working on. According to him, there is high demand for VCSELs from the high volume automotive lidar applications. He further explained - in the configuration of Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL), the laser is perpendicular to the plane of the surface or the wafer and in this case, it is possible to emit vertical light perpendicular to the surface. One can apply multiple emitters in matrix like format and hence offers more engineering flexibility. The EEL technology is more conventional and common in high power laser diode applications. Its generators are different from that of VCSEL as the light emission is in the plane of the wafer and then cleaved in the individual components. Once it is cleaved into the component it forms the laser resonator. The EEL has higher power and brightness, around 10 time than the brightness of VCSEL.
When asked about the preferred wavelength of the laser diodes in the autonomous vehicle industry and the inclination of automotive companies towards the higher wavelengths, his views were more focused on the detection range requirement of the vehicles. He said that the 905 nm laser diodes are most commonly being used and even the 1050 nm lasers are attractive. The choice of the wavelength differs with the different requirements in the vehicle. For example, the corner LiDARs deployed on either side of the vehicle are generally the short-range LiDARs and the one in the front and the top for 360-degree coverage are the long range LiDARs. So, the wavelength of LiDARs or the laser diodes might vary depending on the applications.
Post the Uber’s autonomous vehicle accident of Volvo XC90, the company (Volvo) had to rethink its AV technology sensing system. It has switched its LiDAR supplier to Luminar Technologies which is using higher wavelength laser diodes.
The interviewee mentioned LeddarTech as one of the Lasertel’s partners with whom the company is going to demonstrate its long-range LiDAR components in the January at CES 2019. He refused to disclose its other partners and the customers in the automotive space as they have an NDA signed. However, he humorously stated that the Lasertel is working with almost everyone in the market for supplying laser diodes.
About the competitors, he said that “Lasertel actually don’t have any direct competitor with same business model as ours. But in the VCSEL space I see Princeton Optronics and ams AG as competitors. Also, Finisar at some stage is our competitor, however, I do not actually see the potential in them in the space we are operating in. Finisar is most inclined towards supplying in the consumer electronics space e.g. Apple.”
Lastly, the interviewee concluded by discussing about the challenges its company is facing in the automotive LiDAR segment. He said that the automotive LiDAR industry is a nascent market and every company have different approaches to find the solution. Though there are some convergence of these approaches, but they are still quite fragmented. It is not noticeably clear on which approach would be the successful and which would be preferred. There is quite aggressive emergence of start-up companies in this space demonstrating their own different technologies. This is the most prime challenge we as a laser diode company is facing.
About Lasertel Inc.
Lasertel Inc., based in Arizona, United States is a Leonardo company specialized in manufacturing of high-power semiconductor laser diodes. It produces custom laser diode system solution for range of applications including defense, automotive, medical, industrial and scientific. The company has vertically integrated manufacturing facility as the entire semiconductor work including epitaxy, wafer, and even the packaging is done within the company. The company is engaged with Tier-1 automotive suppliers for expanding LiDAR technology in self-driving cars. Its solution is the advanced LiDAR illumination source for ADAS including the VCSEL and EEL technologies.