Velodyne LiDAR, the exclusive provider of Liight Detection And Ranging sensory equipment to Ford’s autonomous vehicle program, is one of a few companies suddenly at the forefront of a massive auto industry shift as global automakers race to put automated, self-driving vehicles on the road.
LiDAR sensors serve as the “eyes” of any self-driving car, scanning the environment continuously to provide the vehicle’s computer system with a high-resolution map of its surroundings. The technology is used in-conjunction with traditional cameras.
Velodyne LiDAR just received investments totalling $150 million from Ford Motor Company and Chinese search engine provider Baidu, and according to the Detroit Free Press, “Velodyne” is a name which routinely comes up on lists of leading enterprises in the field. Market research firm Mordor Intelligence named Ford’s LiDAR supplier as one of about a dozen top developers of the technology, and estimates that the LiDAR market will grow from roughly $1.3 billion in 2015 to $2.42 billion worldwide by 2020.
Yet despite the increasingly-important position Ford’s LiDAR supplier finds itself in, Velodyne is a relatively small company with just 210 employees. The fresh injection of capital from Ford and Baidu should help the company to keep pace with exploding demand, and to improve the range and resolution of its sensors. “What automakers are really looking for are longer-range sensors and higher-resolution sensors at a lower cost,” said Velodyne COO Mike Jellen in a statement.
The Detroit Free Press reports that until recently, a single Velodyne LiDAR sensor cost around $8,000; later this year, the company will put out a unit that could be priced as low as $500, depending on the level of demand.