LiDAR sensor for autonomous driving application was, is and will be the buzzing topic. The industry has witnessed explosion of start-ups and their patented technologies, while tier-1s are determined to develop their own LiDAR solutions and bringing them in to the market. Chinese companies are the once being more aggressive to grab the highest market share with their strong innovation and production capabilities. M14 Intelligence got an opportunity to talk with one of the most promising LiDAR companies of the epoch, LeiShen Intelligent Systems.
Emma Lin, the Overseas Sales and Product Manager at LeiShen Intelligent System discussed openly with M14 Intelligence about the most crucial aspects of current LiDAR industry, journey of LS LiDAR since its inception, the company’s achievements and hardships, and its continuous progression towards advancement of its product portfolio and achieving its goals.
The introduction of New Generation Auto-grade CH128X LiDAR
In April 2021, LS LIDAR has officially unveiled the new hybrid Solid-State LiDAR, CH128X which the company is planning for SOP by the end of Nov 2021. CH128X successfully passed the series of car gauge tests including vibration test, low temperature test, high temperature test salt spray test, drop test, electrostatic discharge test, radiation anti-interference test, and power frequency magnetic field test. Also, the product is under DV, PV, and EMC inspections, which the company is targeting to complete before October. LeiShen Intelligence System claims to be the only company after Valeo to manufacture automotive standard certified LiDAR products.
There are two variants of CH128X series- CH128X1 and CH128X.
CH128X1 has a window size of only 85.3×66.8mm and reduces the size of the whole machine to 118x90x75mm and can be easily fitted in the front of the car. The CH128X1 model will go into the mass-production this year.
CH128X2 is scheduled to be launched next year. This model has the height of only 45mm and suitable for roof installation.
More on technical specifications:
CH128X1 is based on rotating prism technology with 128 channels operating on 905nm wavelength. The sensor can detect 200m under the condition of 10% reflectivity and the company claims that it is ahead of the industry’s highest level. The detection field of view covers 120°x25° and the resolution @ROI is 0.18°x0.125°. The number of point clouds can be obtained up to 850,000 points per second for a single echo and has frame rate of 10Hz ~ 25 Hz.
Affordable LiDAR is what the AV industry is craving for
Emma Lin: The only factor that is holding back the growth of autonomous vehicles LiDAR industry is the high cost of product. LS LiDAR from its inception has focused on developing affordable, highly effective, and performance delivering Lidar. The company has worked rigorously to achieve this, and it seems that we are pretty much headed towards the right direction.
Our mechanical LiDARs are quite less expensive compared to that of our rivals. Still our design is much less complicated, more compact, and with greater lifespan. We have achieved this with our innovative design that uses only 2 PCB boards- 16 receivers in one board and 16 senders in another PCB board. On contrary, our competitors make use of 32 PCB boards to make single 16-layer lidar sensor, this makes it complicated. Moreover, we use our in-house chips that helps in cost reduction of the entire product.
Our products can be easily mass-produced as we have a strong and dedicated production line. Unlike our competitors, our production and assembly time is also much shorter.
We have various models of automotive-grade LiDARs and hence the pricing varies depending on the channels, models, and the order quantity. Here are the estimated costs of our LiDAR products.
Why Rotating Prism Technology?
Emma Lin: If to compare the MEMS based LiDAR with Rotating Prism technology, though the MEMS LiDAR is a mature technology and can be priced moderately but is associated with big risks. While the Rotating Prism technology is mature enough, passes the auto-grade test, and is more reliable.
Our LiDAR works on dTOF technology with 905nm wavelength and uses Avalanche Photo Detectors (APDs) and Fiber Laser as laser source. Except the prism, all the components are solid; hence offers more performance efficiency than the pure solid-state and compact size and weight than the mechanical LiDARs.
To give few examples, apart from LeiShen companies such as Valeo, Huawei, and Livox are the once relying on rotating mirror technology; while Innoviz and RoboSense are advancing towards the development of MEMS based LiDARs.
How is LeiShen Intelligent Systems attaining the mass-production stage?
Emma Lin: LeiShen’s mechanical LiDAR models are already into mass-production since last two to three years and entered the mass-production of Hybrid Solid-State LiDARs in the end of last year.
Talking about the production line, we have established a dedicated automatic production base for automotive-grade LiDARs in Xuzhou. The production line is at its commissioning stage and will start the production in June. The plan is to automate the whole process of lidar production, thereby improving production efficiency, product consistency. The automation at the new factory will help in compressing the production cycle and cost.
Our target production capacity for Hybrid Sold-State LiDAR is 200,000 units per year in 2021, 280,000 units in 2022, and more than 450,000 units by 2023.
Which industries are tapped by LeiShen and from where the company is getting more traction?
Emma Lin: LS LiDAR has its reach in all the possible markets, majorly including the autonomous passenger and commercial vehicles, smart traffic, railway, aviation, industrial robotics, shuttles, agriculture, and off highway vehicle industry. Our LiDARs are integrated on AGVs, forklifts, autonomous vans, delivery robots, service robots, drones, and robotaxis. LeiShen’s LiDARs are also incorporated for V2X solutions for traffic monitoring and surveillance applications.
The higher traction or demand for LS LiDAR comes from agriculture, industrial robotics, and warehousing industries. While the L3-L5 passenger car and robotaxis market are highly potential and huge opportunity lies in these markets.
How does LS LiDAR’s customer base look like in China and overseas?
Emma Lin: LeiShen is a worldwide recognized LiDAR company and have a quite strong hold in China. We are working with big Chinese OEMs like Dongfeng whose sharing van platform uses set of 4 CH32 lidar series. CH128X1 and CH64W LiDAR are also included into new generation of Dongfeng’s vehicle, Golden Dragon etc. In the field of construction machinery and equipment, LeiShen already co-operated with Sany, XCMG and the counterpart from oversea. In ITS segment, LeiShen has gain the tech-advantage by co-operating with ZTE and other communication companies. We have signed the contract for about 25 landing projects over 30 cities in China, especially for V2X. Other partners that are using CX series includes UCIT, Ohmio, and Elite. As we have NDA signed with most of our customers, we cannot reveal all the names.
Some of the giants in the L3-L5 market that we are targeting includes SAIC Motors, BYD, NIO, Changan Motors, Skywell, Golden Dragon, and GAC group.
R&D capability, Revenue, and Investment
Emma Lin: LeiShen’s major focus is on strong Research and Development (R&D). Our R&D center is in Shenzhen and have a dedicated team of more than 150 employees. We have more than 200 patents in this area and aggressively focusing on innovation and product development. We are also focusing on next flagship product LS21G hybrid solid-state lidar which uses a 1550nm fiber laser and its core components are developed in-house. This independent development and production of 1550nm laser will give the consumers access to affordable and highly effective product. Compared to other competitors, LeiShen has the advantage to own the core technology of 1550nm optical fiber laser and easier to control the cost which accounts for LiDAR’s 80% cost. We are achieving this under the guidance of LeiShen’s founder Mr. Hu Xiaobo who has 21 years optical experience and his first company ‘Maxphotonics’ was a leading optical fiber laser manufacturer in China.
LeiShen’s last financial year revenue was about RMB 80 million.
We have raised investment of nearly RMB 169 million i.e., $30.8 million collectively in Series A and B funding rounds. Large share of this investment is directed towards the advancement in R&D segment and enhancement of production line. Also, recently we completed our Series B+ funding process, wherein we have raised RMB 150 million.
Opportunities that LeiShen is going to tap in near future.
Emma Lin: The integration of LiDAR in Level 2 vehicles/ADAS vehicles is certainly a big opportunity that LeiShen is racing to grab.
Companies like Continental, Aptiv, and other well-known tier-1s along with few OEMs have already started to foresee the integration of LiDAR for ADAS systems. This market holds huge potential and is expected to explode in next 2 to 5 years.
About LeiShen Intelligent Systems:
Since the inception of LeiShen Intelligent System in 2015, it is committed to provide reliable LiDAR sensing solutions that would empower the autonomous driving, robotics, industrial automation, smart security, smart traffic, 3D mapping industries. The company is headquartered in Shenzhen, China and marking its footprints globally with 1 office in Europe and planning for another in United States. It has partnered with reseller across the countries such as japan, Korea, France, Canada, and Taiwan. It has a team of 450+ employees and more than 150 people are involved in company’s R&D operations.
LeiShen has mastered 4 different LiDAR technologies simultaneously that includes TOF time-of-flight method, phase method, triangulation method, and FM continuous wave. The company believes in developing majority of components in-house to attain high performance and affordability of product. Its wide product portfolio of mechanical as well as hybrid solid-state LiDARs makes it one of the strongest competitors in the global LiDAR market. It is one of the few companies that have received the certification for Automotive-grade LiDARs and aiming for receiving bulk orders from across the globe. R&D capabilities and highly skilled technical team has helped the company to grow and sustain in this highly competitive environment.