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Disruption Battle for the Autonomous Vehicle

CarIt became clear to theYole Dveloppement (Yole)team at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that the autonomous vehicle industry is a battlefield. Thanks partly to the recently published Yoles report,Sensors and Data Management for Autonomous Vehicles,we can tell you where the front lines are.

In this report, Yole highlighted that the market for sensor modules for autonomous cars is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2015 to more than $35 billion in 2030. Car manufacturers and tech companies are therefore watching this business closely. Peak hype was reached last week when car makers took over CES. People thought they were attending some kind of rebranded Automotive Show. This is not just a one-time thing car makers presence grows every year. In our last report we called the automotive industry the next consumer electronic market.

Automotive is one of the most complicated markets. It combines low margins, long life cycles, complex industrial chains, risk, and high levels of regulation. It is torn by three revolutions at once: Electrical Vehicles (EVs); Autonomous Driving (AD); and the car-sharing movement. These revolutions are felt in three large industries: car manufacturing; Silicon Valleys Internet business; and semiconductors.

Key car-sharing players are Uber, Lyft, and Didi Kuaidi, valued at over $50 billion, $5.5 billion and $16.5 billion respectively. Their movement changes the automotive industry landscape, fulfilling a new type of on-demand role. General Motors has invested $500 million in Lyft. Didi Kuaidi, the Chinese service, has announced that it has provided a billion rides in China alone. The sharing economy is transforming the way we use transportation and traditional car makers have clearly understood the threat.

Tesla is prominent in EVs, disrupting both the energy and automotive industries, and now targeting AD in its future vehicles. It has recently presented some features, including autopilot and cars that come when called, that should set the standard for the whole industry. Autonomous driving is also important for Silicon Valley companies like Google and possibly Apple. The promise of reducing the number of crashes, pollution and traffic, and allowing in-car entertainment and/or productivity is definitely exciting.

There are two different sensor-related strategies in AD. Almost all automotive sensor technologies are racing toward maturity, except Lidar, which is attracting large investments to accelerate its development. Yoles research lays bare the technical choices made by traditional companies and newcomers related to the two main strategies among ultrasonic sensors, short-range or long-range radar, Lidar, dead reckoning sensors anddata management.

Everywhere/Partial AD is an incremental sensing approach embraced by traditional manufacturers. It relies on high sensitivity sensors combined with low-resolution maps, and then improves map quality using the sensors embedded on each vehicle. This solution allows partial automation in every situation as a first step.

Somewhere/Full AD is exploited by Google and Baidu, based on 3D localized maps with high levels of detail, down to centimeter accuracy. The maps are combined with fewer sensors than Everywhere/Partial AD, often using Lidar. This solution allows full automation in specific environments and will work very rapidly, however it requires hard work to keep the maps updated.

The real bottleneck is currently in the upper layer of the system, namely embedded data processing and management. These functions are still under construction, with emerging players like MobilEye, and Nvidia providing advanced electronic control units (ECUs) that are challenging established players like Toshiba or Infineon.

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