Electronic Products & Technology

Feature

LeddarTech senses the future of transport with its leading-edge LiDAR technology

Quebec City-based developer and owner of Leddar light detection and ranging details its use in autonomous vehicles


LeddarTech is a Quebec City-based developer and owner of Leddar, a patented solid-state LiDAR sensing technology that constitutes a novel approach to light detection and ranging. Developed over 10+ years of R&D, Leddar is a unique combination of advanced light wave digital signal processing and software algorithms that enable the production of solid-state LiDARs. 

EP&T takes this opportunity to pose some questions to Michael Poulin, General Manager of Automotive Business Unit at LeddarTech.

Describe the multiple applications solid-state LiDAR is used in today (automotive, intelligent transportation systems, drones and UAVs, industrial commercial vehicles).

“When it comes to solid-state LiDAR, anything that needs to have a perception of its environment is a target, and this can go beyond mobility to less traditional vehicles like drones, robotics and other fields. For autonomous vehicles, L2 and L3 ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) applications represent the single largest opportunity for near-term adoption of SSL solutions.”

With customers ranging from specialized integrators to tier-1 manufacturers, describe the type of work LeddarTech performs as a ‘technological partner’.

“There are two parts to this. The first part is the technical service we provide directly to our partners: LeddarTech offers direct LiDAR engineering support to our partners to assist with development of their custom solutions. Through our LeddarEngine Development Platform, we provide Tier-1s with the key components and tools needed to develop and produce differentiated SSL solutions tailored to OEMs’ specific ADAS and AD requirements. Working closely with our partners in this manner allows us to deliver a solution that meets the exact specifications they’re looking for, while accelerating development for our partners. This LeddarEngine platform is based in part on a LeddarCore SoC, which is why the delivery of our LCA2 SoC is prominent news for businesses looking to advance their ADAS system timeline.

Second, our LeddarTech Ecosystem is a tremendous asset to Tier-1s and OEMs. The Ecosystem is a group of world-class suppliers of component and software development tools prequalified to integrate with LeddarCore SoCs like the LCA2, which cuts down on time and risk in the development and deployment cycle for our partners. Partners working with LeddarTech benefit from the strength of our Ecosystem by seeing reduced technical risks, increased design agility, and a faster path to high-volume commercial deployments.”

Describe the importance of recent release LeddarCore LCA2 system-on-chip (SoC) within the automotive sector. What impact will it have to the evolution of autonomous vehicles?

“The LCA2 will be the first SoC widely available to the automotive industry for implementation of cost-optimized 3D SSL meeting the requirements of autonomous driving at L2 and above. Clients developing on the LCA2 can supply LiDAR to OEMs for MY2020, and its availability in samples enables fully-working LiDAR units and application software with function and form factor very close to the final products.”

Describe LeddarTech’s mission to solve intelligent mobility sensing application challenges with the many advanced solutions in electronic designs today.

“LeddarTech’s unique technology and know-how enables high-performance, low-cost LiDAR solutions that are very well adapted to mobility applications. This includes automotive passenger cars and commercial vehicles, as well as many other types of vehicles used for the transportation of people and goods such as shuttles, busses, various utility vehicles and even off-road vehicles.

On one end, we provide a LiDAR development platform centered on the LeddarCore LCA SoCs for volume applications where clients are supplying to vehicle manufacturers. On the other, we sell LiDAR modules for integration into lower-volume applications where custom LiDAR development is not required or justified.” 

Define the size and scope of LeddarTech’s engineering team. How do important is it to have all the different levels of engineering disciplines communicating openly with one another?

“We are in accelerated-growth mode, and the past year and a half have been transformative for us in size and scope across the company. We grew our team by 70% last fiscal year, and then followed that up with about 40 more hires primarily within the automotive and R&D teams. As of August, we stand 115 employees strong. We’re also expanding out of Quebec City, adding talent that’s experienced in automotive and semiconductors. Within our engineering departments, some of our engineers support our customers, and some hold experience in managing products. This breadth of knowledge across disciplines gives us the luxury of having a large engineering team that’s agile. Communication is especially important when a company is growing, and we keep that in mind whenever we outline processes.”

In the first half of its fiscal year, LeddarTech’s general-purpose LiDAR module solutions experienced growing customer traction. Describe which sectors were most impacted within your Canadian customer base.

“We saw growth in Canada for multiple applications, namely intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and industrial vehicles. ITS is an exciting sector because of the number of use cases is has for LiDAR, like traffic monitoring, automated tolling, speed enforcement, and vehicle measurement. When you think about smart cities, these are applications that are essential.”

Recent reports from industry analysts on LiDAR market opportunity confirm the strategic position of SSL technology in terms of enabling mass-market autonomous driving deployments. Describe the challenges for LeddarTech to remain relevant and at the top of this emerging design space.

“We’re in an advantageous position in the market, with terrific leadership in place with Charles Boulanger and Frantz Saintellemy. Our challenge for the remainder of 2018 is to continue to foster automotive partners which we can deliver product to, thereby demonstrating our ability to deliver industry-first innovations. We’ve demonstrated our ability to execute, develop, and deliver with the LCA2, and are already repeating the cycle with the LCA3 SoC, further gaining traction in the industry. In the long term, we are working on our next generation of LiDAR solutions that will bring increased performance and cost reduction.”

As the first company in the industry to deliver 3D solid-state LiDAR SoC, describe how this demonstrates LeddarTech has ‘arrived’ – as a company that’s beyond the point of conceptualization.

“There’s an unquestioned amount of anxious anticipation for autonomous vehicles, and new developments in our industry attract considerable attention. Unfortunately, many of those developments are misunderstood by the general public, especially in situations where industry competitors refer to the potential of a product without a shipment timeline. With the LCA2, we’re not talking about a future possibility – we’ve produced a real product and shipped it to our partners, pushing the industry forward with something that actually exists and can be evaluated. We say we’ve arrived because we’re well beyond a theoretical model of transportation; We’re pushing the industry forward with our actions.”

Michael Poulin, General Manager of Automotive Business Unit at LeddarTech.