8m autonomous vehicles by 2025

ABI Research expects eight million consumer vehicles shipping in 2025 will feature SAE Level 3 and 4 technologies, where drivers will still be necessary but are able to completely shift safety-critical functions to the vehicle under certain conditions, and SAE Level 5 technology, where no driver will be required at all.

This, in turn, will help drive the shipment of vital Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors that underpin the technology. As many as 36 million LiDAR units are expected to ship in 2025, corresponding to a market value of US$7.2 billion.

“With the rapid development and deployment of various Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) packages by OEMs, higher level automation represents the next suitable step,” said Shiv Patel, Research Analyst of ABI Research.

“The primary functional sensor gap between today’s ADAS and higher level autonomous vehicles will be filled with the addition of LiDAR, which will help to provide reliable obstacle detection and Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM),” he added.

For conditional and high-level automation applications within the consumer market, such as SAE Level 3 and Level 4, solid state LiDAR solutions from companies including Innoviz and LeddarTech have emerged as the LiDAR form factor that will not only help enable robust sensing on autonomous vehicles but also more importantly, satisfy stringent pricing requirements set by OEMs.

These units are expected to reach price points of US$200 and US$750 per unit by 2020, for low and high-end solutions respectfully. At this price, even with multiple sensors around the car, using solid-state LiDAR solutions represents a highly feasible option to OEMs on premium models.

In fully autonomous applications, SAE Level 5, such as autonomous ridesharing, where the aim is to eliminate the driver completely, much more expensive, traditional mechanical LiDAR solutions, with their higher resolution for robust sensing remain the go-to option.

Players targeting the ‘robotaxi’ use case aren’t too concerned with vehicle ASPs, with their short-term “land-grab” objective being to maximise their share in the smart mobility market as it emerges.

In these market conditions, it is purely a race to be the first to eliminate the driver, who represents the single biggest cost for these companies. Although the performance of solid-state LiDAR continues to improve, mechanical LiDAR as part of a broader suite of other sensor types is currently seen as the only short-term option to enable full automation as soon as possible for these aggressive implementers.

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