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Sensing the LiDAR Opportunity in Autonomous driving: LeddarTech

thesiliconreview-charles-boulanger-ceo-leddartech-17“How an up-and-coming optical detection and ranging specialist became one of the most prominent references for solid-state LiDAR in the autonomous driving race.”

In recent years, the race within the automotive industry to bring autonomous cars to the mass market has accelerated, with investments in various leading-edge technologies, including machine learning and environmental discernment. The LiDAR sensor technology plays a vital role in the fine performance of these cars. The primary functionality of the LiDAR is to measure the distance between itself and various obstacles in its field of view. It does so by calculating the time taken by a pulse of light to travel to an object and back to the sensor, based on the speed of light constant.

Founded in 2007 with optical detection technology in its DNA, LeddarTech grew out of a research institute project after a group of talented researchers developed a unique method for building highly optimized detection and ranging solutions based on the time of flight of light signals. LeddarTech, the fast-growing light detection and ranging (LiDAR) specialist, now works with some of the biggest names in the automotive industry.

With the launch of the d-tec traffic detection system integrating a Leddar sensor, the technology was first targeted to the intelligent transportation system (ITS) market. This d-tec traffic sensor was launched some 10 years ago as a superior alternative to traditional inductive loops, underground sensors used to automate traffic lights. The product has achieved good market traction, and with a long-term, loyal client following, is still actively marketed and sold through authorized distributors today.

From system vendor to sensor module provider

LeddarTech soon discerned other applications and business opportunities for Leddar technology; in response, LeddarTech had to quickly adapt its business model. Suffice to say that developing multiple complete solutions for many highly-diversified sectors was a major undertaking for the young technology company, and required significant resources.

Accordingly, LeddarTech had to rethink its go-to-market and product offering strategies. As a result, it started developing sensor modules that could be supplied to leading integrators in each market segment for the development of various specialized solutions tailored to their customer base.

By managing its own production activities, LeddarTech has the flexibility needed to produce a variety of sensor configurations with various fields of view and degrees of performance that meet the specific requirements of specific applications. These modules are now sold in a variety of markets, including traffic management and tolling, safety systems for industrial vehicles or lifts, liquid level sensing in food and beverage production and drone navigation.

Capturing the autonomous driving opportunity

Thanks to significant developments in artificial intelligence and vehicular navigation and automation, the biggest opportunity for LeddarTech’s unique detection technology, which was stemming from more than a decade of R&D effort and supported by 58 patents, materialized in recent years.

Autonomous driving (AD) technology requires a comprehensive suite of sensors to collect the complex information needed to recreate a vehicle’s environment. LiDAR sensors are a cornerstone requirement to enable high levels of autonomous driving, because commercially available sensing technologies such as cameras and radars fall short of meeting the requirements for range, resolution and object discrimination.

Despite the fact that mechanical scanning LiDARs are powerful and used in AD research projects, they are also cost prohibitive, bulky, and difficult to manufacture and maintain. As such, they are not considered a commercially viable solution for high volume deployments. And this is where the Leddar technology comes in. LeddarTech’s unique signal-processing ability delivers accurate measurements, extends range and measurement capabilities, and provides superior lateral discrimination and the critical capability to detect and track multiple objects simultaneously in the sensor’s field of view. This enhanced sensitivity makes it possible to produce solid-state LiDAR sensors that achieve the automotive industry’s targeted performance levels using more affordable, readily available components—as well as simple, robust sensor designs with no moving parts.

Differentiation through a unique business model

LeddarTech provides a powerful solid-state LiDAR engine and reference designs to Tier-1 automotive suppliers, and works with each partner to produce customized LiDAR solutions that meet the unique requirements of each OEM customer. Working with key automotive Tier-1 vendors allows LeddarTech to benefit from their unparalleled expertise in manufacturing, supply management and quality control, in addition to securing direct access to key OEMs.

To accelerate Tier-1 vendors’ development and integration processes, LeddarTech has also established the Leddar ecosystem comprising approved suppliers who provide key LiDAR components such as emitters, receivers, micromirrors, microprocessors and software development tools.

Making a difference through technology

LeddarTech’s history and evolution is testimony to the fact that technology start-ups inevitably go through various phases on the road toward getting their solutions successfully adopted by target markets. Because technology is evolving at a frantic pace, companies need to adapt, be agile and ready to reinvent themselves to survive and thrive. LeddarTech has now cemented its success as a recognized reference in solid-state LiDARs for assisted and autonomous driving. Accordingly, its Leddar technology is set to have a major impact on the automotive industry and provide significant added value to consumers worldwide. Not only will it help make vehicles and roads safer while improving the efficiency of transport systems—it will make it all possible at a faster rate.

Meet the CEO, Charles Boulanger

Charles Boulanger is the CEO of LeddarTech. He is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully rose over $500M in financing and completed several acquisitions and sales transactions, including two IPOs and one management LMBO. Mr. Boulanger has over 35 years of experience in senior management positions in several sectors, especially in the high-tech sector, with public and private companies. Mr. Boulanger had lead profitable international businesses with up to $250M in sales. He became LeddarTech’s CEO in 2014.

Mr. Boulanger earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Université Laval in 1981 and graduated from the senior management program at the International Center for Research and Studies in Management (CIREM) in 1990.

“We are at the forefront of the most exciting innovations in automotive sensing today.”