Q: Fully self-driving vehicles may take a long time to hit the roads in large numbers. The sensors driving much of their progress, however, are beginning to go mainstream. How has Hesai Technology’s research and development efforts evolved to reflect the current market needs?
Bob in den Bosch: At Hesai, we know lidar technology and ranging (lidar) technology is a critical safety and navigation component for the future of all vehicles, regardless of whether those vehicles have drivers or are autonomous. The autonomous vehicle market is continuing to grow, as we see several of our robotaxi and robotruck customers, like Zoox and Aurora, have already started or have plans for commercial operations in the U.S. and around the world. Meanwhile, Hesai is also seeing a new opportunity for lidar integrations in ADAS for series production vehicles, which is growing more rapidly. We expect that lidar orders from automotive OEMs will grow into millions of units in the next few years.
As our autonomous vehicle customers continue to expand the scale of their fleet, and we’ve won design wins from 11 OEM customers and several of them already started shipping, we have adjusted our R&D focus to mass-producible products that meet the big three requirements to support our customers’ large-scale deployment, specifically price, performance, and quality. Another major push focuses on enhancing the aesthetics of our sensors to better align with the needs of consumers and their vehicle brands. This shift has resulted in reduced sensor size, solid-state sensors and innovations such as moving small new sensors behind the windshield in our new ET25 (an extremely thin sensor that’s only 25 mm thick).