Is Lidar the future of hardware
In imagining a future of self-driving cars, progress toward
developing these highly automated, software-defined vehicles has
led to increased standardization of hardware. One of the primary
drivers behind the continual improvement of Advanced Driver
Assistance Systems (ADAS) is the increased use of Light Detection
and Ranging (Lidar) sensors in Level 2+ and Level 3 automated
driving systems, which are set to experience significant growth in
the coming years.
ADAS technologies such as automatic emergency braking, blind
spot warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning
have become increasingly common in mainstream vehicles – having
trickled down from installations in luxury brands. These
driver-assist systems not only enhance the safety and comfort of
vehicle operation but also serve as a foundation for more advanced
automated driving features. And Lidar will have a large role in
enabling these systems to transition from mere driver-assist to
allowing a car to function in a semi-autonomous way.
The standardization of ADAS is driven by both automakers
striving for competitive differentiation and compliance factors,
like the European General Safety Regulation mandating the inclusion
of certain ADAS features in new vehicles sold in Europe after July
2024 and July 2026.
“While the industry’s long-term target is Level 4 autonomous
vehicles, such an achievement on a mass scale is still a ways off,”
said Jeremy Carlson, associate director of research and analysis
for S&P Global Mobility’s supply chain and technology team.
“The road will be paved with rapid growth in Level 2 and Level
2+ automation that is being developed and deployed widely today,”
Carlson added. “More than 60% of vehicles sold today have 10 or
more ADAS applications, with Level 2 and above vehicles leading the
S&P Global Mobility’s recently enhanced Autonomy Forecasts,
beyond defining L2+ as a specific application and use case, also
allow for a better understanding of propulsion segmentation and an
updated view of sensor hardware and application software content in
terms of dollars per vehicle. S&P Global Mobility expects Level
2 (and especially Level 2+) vehicles to continue their strong
growth, increasing from 30% in 2022 to more than 50% after 2026 –
further eroding Level 1 sales in the market.
The development of autonomous vehicles involves various levels
of automation, ranging from Level 0 (no automation) to Level 4
(full automation). Level 2 and Level 2+ systems, which offer
partial automation through ADAS features like adaptive cruise
control and lane keep assist, are currently gaining significant
traction in the market. Level 2+ systems provide more advanced
capabilities, enabled by driver facial monitoring; in some cases,
additional sensors like Lidar provide for future upgradability to
Level 3 systems.
Why is Lidar gaining? The technology can enable
higher-resolution perception of vehicles and objects when compared
to other sensors in making split-second decisions. Ultimately lidar
represents a third automated-driving technology – one that provides
more information and redundancy, and which assures automakers the
system will operate as intended. This is crucial for Level 3
systems and beyond as legal liability then shifts to the automaker
and permits the driver to disengage from the constant operation
(or even supervision) of the vehicle.
Lidar technology is rapidly becoming a key component in the
development of highly automated and autonomous vehicles in Level 3
and Level 4, and China is prominent both in terms of current market
demand and supply chain. The Greater China market currently
represents around half of the current Lidar sensor demand, and
Chinese companies supply more than 75% of that volume today.
Compared to traditional ICE propulsion, electric vehicles tend
to come with more features and content. This is partially a result
of OEMs’ focus on scalable, software-defined EV architectures that
include basic ADAS technologies as standard. By including Lidar, or
additional camera or radar sensors, automakers potentially can
provide over-the-air (OTA) updates and upgrades to higher levels of
autonomy as the vehicle ages. It’s no surprise that EV platforms
and programs are thus experiencing higher take rates for advanced
technologies like driver facial monitoring and Level 2 and Level 3
highway semi-autonomous systems.
But the move to higher levels of automation (i.e., Level 3 or 4)
demands more sensor-rich content and redundancy as safeguards.
Consequently, the required computing power for these systems is
also growing substantially, and automakers are introducing domain
controllers in Level 2+ systems to achieve scalability. By
upgrading their vehicles’ software over time with OTA updates,
automakers also can unlock a revenue subscription model to serve
As automated driving systems continue to feature a growing
density of sensor content – including cameras, radar, and Lidar –
the need for additional resolution and coverage in the
safety-critical front-view area is driving the growth in front and
Many vehicles today offer a multifunctional front-view camera
installed behind the windshield, frequently as standard equipment.
Surround cameras have a lower fitment rate by comparison, but they
are deployed in dense, multi-sensor configurations and hence
outperform front-view cameras in volume terms.
The critical importance of forward sensing, along with the
growth in automation, is resulting in new and sustained growth in
front-corner. This has been the domain of radar sensors, which will
be commonly deployed in a 1+4 configuration (front + corners). But
Lidar sensors are now seeing some activity in this space, with dual
front sensors providing some overlap directly ahead of the vehicle
while also providing a wider field of view to the front corners. As
automation increases, installation rates for each type of sensor
The development of sensors and software to facilitate an
autonomous or highly automated future is one of the most dynamic
areas of the automotive industry. Ultimately, the advancements in
software-defined vehicles, automated driving, standard ADAS, and
Lidar technology favor OEMs and suppliers that can design
cost-efficient architectures that play into their agility in
This article was published by S&P Global Mobility and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.