Sensors were the focus of my last post, and I promised more. These notes came from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which was not large as usual and generated far fewer news items than expected. Most of the sensor news revolved around autonomous vehicles. We may or may not be interested in autonomous cars in this blog, but trucks for the supply chain and warehouse vehicles provide utility in an age of declining workforce.

Following comments from prominent people in the field were supplied to me from an agency promoting CES.

Paul Drysch, CEO of PreAct Technologies (sensors for autonomy) 

• The Last 50 Feet: Attention will start to shift towards “the last 50 feet” (short range or near field sensing), in order to meet the demands of self-driving vehicles (trucking, robotaxis, etc.), and customer demands for more advanced ADAS and convenience features.  The market will need to adapt since traditional radar and ultrasound are not sufficient anymore. The last 50 feet is a much harder problem to solve than highway driving, and it’s also the most important to the success of full autonomy within a city. 

• New Sensor Technologies: Newer technologies like 4D radar and continuous wave time of flight (CWTOF) cameras are starting to gain significant traction because of the need for better near-field sensing, and we’ll ultimately see ultrasound and other tech go away.

• LiDAR Gains Traction: Lidar will finally start to find some traction in production vehicles, however that volume will remain minuscule and there are still way too many lidar companies so there will be some consolidation and some players disappearing in 2022-2023. 

Blair LaCorte, CEO of AEye (NASDAQ: LIDR – LiDAR technology)

• Shift from robotaxis to trucking: Robotaxi implementations in closed-loop environments have been well-proven. The next major transportation network to tackle autonomous mobility will be trucks delivering goods across cities and states. 

• The “Marquee” App emerges: Highway autopilot will emerge as the “marquee app” in automotive ADAS, as sensor sophistication, especially with the addition of LiDAR, enables small object detection at highway speeds.

• Over the air updates become more prevalent: Automakers will take a cue from Elon Musk, looking to over-the-air updates to deliver continuous feature enhancements, and moving toward subscription pricing to drive future revenues. 

• Industrial markets will drive autonomous mobility: What’s old is new, as “old school” companies and industries lead the way in implementing autonomy. Think aerospace & defense, construction and rail – companies with “closed loop” scenarios with much more predictable use cases and challenges than those in automotive.

• Continued Consolidation: As the industry seeks complete autonomous mobility solutions, get ready for continued consolidation, especially with regard to the software perception layer (i.e. Uber/Aurora, Aptiv/Hyundai).

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