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Valeo Leads Deployment And Industrialization Of Automotive LiDAR

Valeo is an automotive Tier 1 parts supplier to global automotive OEMs. Headquartered in France and listed on the Paris Stock Exchange (FR.PA), it generates ~$20B in annual sales, and employs 110,000 employees in 33 countries and 187 geographical locations. Key areas of focus include ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and intuitive driving for which sensors, electronic controls and data intelligence play key roles. LiDAR is an important element of this portfolio.

LiDAR has been an exciting business for the past 5 years, witnessing significant technology disruptions, billion-dollar investments, multi-billion dollar lawsuits, and entertaining management drama. Significant private and venture investments have occurred, and a total of six companies have gone public via SPAC transactions. Automotive LiDAR is a key driver for this excitement – both for ADAS and AVs (Autonomous Vehicles). A few companies have publicly announced design wins into automotive sockets. These include Valeo (in Daimler’s Mercedes S Series), Cepton (in the GM Cadillac), Innoviz (in the BMW 7 Series), and Luminar (in Volvo’s XC-90). The business of LiDAR is now poised to transition from hype, speculation and technology roadmaps into products, revenues and execution.

Valeo is by far the most advanced company today in terms of industrialization, maturity, testing, reliability and manufacturing scalability of an automotive LiDAR product for ADAS, and eventually for AVs. The SCALA® design was initiated with a cooperation, development and licensing agreement with Ibeo in 2010. Valeo invested in maturing the initial design platform into the launch of the fully qualified second generation SCALA® product in 2021. More than 150,000 units have been sold to date. The product has undergone extensive testing on roads in Europe, United States and China (> 50,000 miles) in order to identify and address corner cases across varied geographies, weather, road and traffic conditions.

Daimler recently announced that it has received regulatory approval in Germany for its latest Level 3 autonomous driving system (Drive Pilot) which allows for hands-free driving under certain conditions and maximum speeds of 37 mph (60 kmph). According to Daimler, “it is the first automotive company in the world to meet the strict legal requirements of the United Nations standard (UN-R157) for a Level 3 autonomous system and to have obtained approval for this system from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority. Mercedes CTO Markus Schäfer believes LiDAR is a critical element for this: “For many years, we have been working to realize our vision of automated driving. With this LiDAR based system, we have developed an innovative technology for our vehicles that offers customers a unique, luxurious driving experience and gives them what matters most: time”. SCALA®  will equip the Mercedes S Class cars with LiDAR to offer Drive Pilot L3 functionality in Germany in 2022. Mercedes is currently also testing the L3 capability in the United States and China. In addition to Daimler, the SCALA® series LiDAR is also used in the Honda Legend, which obtained the world’s first official approval of L3 ADAS.

Valeo announced at CES 2022 that it is working on multiple new products that will leverage the basic design and experience of the second generation SCALA® product. The third generation SCALA® delivers 150 m range (at 10% reflectivity), 12x higher angular resolution and 2.5X higher VFoV (Vertical Field of View) as compared to the second generation product. It uses higher laser power capability and a customized detector design (with higher sensitivity) to extend the range and provide superior resolution. According to Clement Nouvel, Technical Director of Valeo’s LiDAR division, “the third generation SCALA®identifies and tracks objects, obstacles and debris on the road early enough to enable effective braking and lane changes at high speed. It even evaluates the density of raindrops to calculate the optimal braking distance. This extends L3 capabilities to higher speeds (from 60 kmph to 130 kmph)”. The fully certified third generation SCALA® will be launched in 2024.
In addition to its long-range LiDAR scanners, Valeo also announced a Near Field (NFL) LiDAR at CES 2022. Multiple units mounted on various locations of the vehicle or delivery robot provide 360° perception to create a 20m safety bubble. In a vehicle, the NFL provides redundancy with other sensors for peripheral vision and blind spot elimination. This enables safe execution of autonomous lane changes and vehicle restart from a standstill situation. The Valeo NFL uses solid state construction (no moving parts) and VCSELs (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers) as the illumination source. Low quantity production has commenced for customer evaluation and integration.

LiDAR is maturing as use cases and business constraints crystallize, and winners in this crowded space emerge. A critical success factor is the ability to meet the demanding requirements of automotive deployment, where safety and reliability is paramount. Valeo is leading this effort. Other automotive LiDAR companies would be wise to follow.