For the first time, Lumotive uses so-called "Liquid Crystal Metasurfaces" (LCMs) for the development of LiDAR systems. LCMs have already been used in other applications such as radar and radio communication, but never for LiDAR. Lumotive combines the LCM with its patented beam steering technology and silicon structure. This should enable better performance, higher precision and range as well as lower manufacturing costs, which makes the technology particularly interesting for the automotive industry. One of the company's major donors is Bill Gates.
First production units will be available for beta testing for selected customers in the third quarter of 2019. Lumotive's system is expected to offer the following benefits:
- Large optical aperture (25 x 25 mm) for long ranges
- 120-degree field of view with high angular resolution
- Fast beam guidance with optional access
In contrast to mechanical LiDAR solutions, Lumotive's beam steering technology uses so-called LCMs: semiconductor chips that control laser pulses based on the principles of light diffraction of metamaterials. This is a premiere in the LiDAR field. Lumotive's LCMs have a large number of apertures to improve environmental perception.
Beam steering is the missing link in the chain of powerful and economical LiDAR systems. Traditionally, LiDAR consisted of bulky rotating bodies, while newer LiDAR sensors use MEMS mirrors or optical phased arrays. However, both have little performance due to the small optical aperture of MEMS mirrors and the low efficiency of phased arrays.
Lumotive's LCM chips contain no moving parts and are manufactured using CMOS manufacturing together with liquid crystal display packaging to provide a commercially viable LiDAR system with low cost, high reliability and small size. In addition to cost and performance benefits, Lumotive LCMs can also be integrated into small form factor systems, which is interesting for other applications such as industrial and consumer goods.