Quanergy Says Its Solid-State Lidar For Driverless Cars Will Cost $250 Or Less

Quanergy, a California-based maker of 3D sensors for real-time mapping and navigation, has put a price on its forthcoming solid-state Lidar which, if it lives up to the company’s claims, could help shave significant cost off the build price of driverless cars.

Early Lidar sensors — such as from maker’s like Velodyne — cost as much as $75,000 a pop. But at its CES press conference yesterday Quanergy said its solid-state Lidar will cost $250 or less when produced in volume (of around 100,000 units).

That said, the company isn’t yet at the preproduction stage for the device. According to IEEE Spectrum, which got a demo of the tech, Quanergy is planning to have a preproduction version of the sensor ready by September 2016, then ramp up production in Q4 this year before starting to deliver to OEMs in early 2017.

Remote sensing Lidar tech is used by Google and others in driverless cars as one way to provide the vision system for the vehicles to self-navigate. Typically Lidar units involve moving parts, either spinning or otherwise moving the unit so that the laser pulses can build up a 3D picture of the terrain outside, enabling the vehicle to navigate.

Quanergy’s S3 solid-state Lidar takes a different tack, projecting a laser pulse through an optical phased array and shifting the phase of the pulse rather than moving any components in the unit. The S3 will apparently support sending around a million laser pulses per second, with each pulse able to be directed and refocused independently to adapt to the real-time vision needs of a vehicle.

At this point the tech is not fully proven, with IEEE Spectrum noting Quanergy has not yet demoed it performing at the full specification they say it will perform at. But it’s certainly one to watch — given the potential to drastically squeeze build costs for autonomous vehicles.

Other touted advantages of solid-state Lidar include reduced risk of mechanical failure and lower power consumption.

According to GPS Business News, which spoke to Quanergy CEO Louay Eldada yesterday, the company is working with various car makers and suppliers at this point, including Daimler and Visteon. Eldada said he expects the S3 sensor to be in half a million vehicles in 2020.

Beyond vehicles, the company is also working on a smaller, $100 version of the S3 for subsequent release, some two years from now, which IEEE Spectrum suggests could even be embedded into mobile devices.

On that tip, in recent years Google has been experimenting with adding depth sensors to smartphones to support 3D mapping applications — via its Project Tango effort. And yesterday at CES Lenovo announced that it would be making the first Project Tango phone, due for release this summer priced at less than $500.