After putting a bow on the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, we huddled up to review some of the key themes that came up in our discussions with booth visitors ranging from Automotive OEMs to lidar technologists to industry experts. We are really pleased by the quality of the conversations we had and are proud of the strong showing by Team MicroVision. Here’s what bubbled up to the top for us:
2023 will be a big year for lidar
Industry players seemed virtually unanimous in their view that lines will be drawn – and partnerships forged – in 2023. Automakers are increasingly viewing the safety stack as an opportunity to differentiate, and they’re seeking the right lidar technologies to enable ADAS and eventually fully autonomous vehicles. Those decisions are projected to result in the purchase and integration of 100 million lidar sensors this decade at a price tag of $80 billion. No wonder OEM booth visitors were probing not only on technology but partnering capabilities and track record, especially in a lidar space that features a wave of tech start-ups. For MicroVision, we are well positioned to win here because of our long history of delivering against partner commitments (30 years and counting), and our technology (MAVIN DR) is ready now!
Long range thinking
The most common technical question we got from OEMs at the booth was how far can your lidar detect objects? (The answer is 220+ meters, by the way). And with good reason, as next-generation vehicle safety features will need to perform at highway speeds, which will require long-range detection of objects and situations that could pose hazards. Latency was also on the minds of booth visitors, as they noticed lags in the 3D point clouds of West Hall lidar exhibitors. Ultra-low system latency will become an important selection criterion as OEMs look to avoid erosion of sensor range capabilities. For MicroVision, this is a clear and compelling differentiator.
Not all point clouds are created equal
The West and North Halls at CES had lots of 3D point clouds on display from known entities and some new entrants who just popped into the mix. Many lidar companies cast live feeds from sensors at their booths. It was the differences across the point clouds that caught the attention of booth visitors. Variation across the resolution, density, and latency of the various 3D point cloud renderings caught some auto execs by surprise. Field of view was also an interesting point of differentiation among vendors as some displayed different hardware focused on different ranges, but the dynamic range lidar was a real point of interest because it allows OEMs more flexibility around how to tailor the MicroVision MAVIN DR solution to their specific program requirements. 3D point cloud quality will likely be top of mind for OEMs as they determine which lidar sensor technology will provide the richest, most actionable view of the road ahead. For MicroVision, our raw point cloud was on display for all to see, and the quality spoke for itself!
It wasn’t just vehicle safety system engineers visiting the MicroVision booth at CES; automotive designers and stylists were spending a lot of time checking out lidar sensors as well. For them, it’s all about size and how to integrate lidar sensors without compromising style and contouring. Many complained about the downsides of current sensor placement behind grills and with bump-outs near the windshields. The holy grail they seek: small form factor sensors that can be tucked into the roofline or other less conspicuous locations without those unsightly exterior bump-outs or cabin space crowding. For MicroVision, we spent a lot of time around the MAVIN DR unit to show just how compact it is and how seamlessly it can integrate into their designs.
Soaring inflation and interest rates – and a possible looming recession – were talking points at CES. OEM booth visitors told us they were facing in-house pressure to hold margins even if 2023 brings price pressure. Not surprisingly, this led to many conversations about sensor unit prices – but also discussions about how many sensors would be required for each vehicle. The answer is that it depends. Fewer are required for sensor technologies that fuse short-, medium-, and long-range fields of view onto a single sensor; more for sensor offerings that do not. For MicroVision, with an expected average selling price of $500 and a lidar system designed with all known parts to ensure no sourcing and supply chain issues, we’re well positioned here too.
Non-automotive enthusiasm for Lidar
The opportunity for lidar stretches well beyond the automotive sector. Lidar’s ability to detect, classify, track, and count people and objects both during the day and night excited booth visitors from a range of industries including:
- Smart city infrastructure with a focus on vehicle and pedestrian traffic monitoring and counting and ground surveying
- Security and policing management exploring lidar’s ability to monitor premises against intrusion 24/7
- Military, drone, and aerospace with lidar serving as an upgrade to camera technologies
- Warehouse and manufacturing facilities looking to monitor the movement of employees, vehicles, and equipment from a safety perspective
Overall, we’re bolstered by a really outstanding CES and great conversations all week. Now we’re back in the office, rested and refreshed, and ready to hit the ground running for a productive 2023. With work underway around our intention to acquire Ibeo assets, there is even more promise for the future as MicroVision will have a portfolio of both solid-state flash and MEMs-based lidar hardware available that can deliver on a variety of use cases for automotive and beyond.