Apr 25,2015
This Article, titled “Quanergy Says It Will Offer Low Cost Sensors for Autonomous Cars Next Year”  by Mike Ramsey appeared in the Wall Street Journal  on April 21, 2015

A Silicon Valley startup says it has solved several of the issues that might plague the introduction of autonomous vehicles — primarily the cost of the equipment.

Quanergy Systems Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., says it will offer a light detection and ranging sensor — or LIDAR — next year that costs only $250 and is the size of a credit card. In 2018, it is promising a postage stamp-sized sensor for $100 or less. It’s all made possible by a solid-state laser system, says Chief Executive Louay Eldada, whose PhD at Columbia University is the basis of the technology.

Mr. Eldada made the news at the Society of Automotive Engineers annual conference in Detroit on Tuesday.

This could be big news if Quanergy can pull it off because it could rapidly reduce the cost of implementing these systems in a mass-market car.

The cylinders on top of Google Inc.’sGOOGL +2.91% autonomous car and that of other car makers are LIDAR sensors. Velodyne Acoustics is the primary manufacturer of the machines.

In order to have truly autonomous driving, installing LIDAR is probably necessary because the sensors can provide incredibly detailed data about what is happening around a vehicle.

But there are a few problems. The current sensors are expensive. The most advanced LIDAR on autonomous cars cost more than $80,000 each. The cheapest are still around $8,000. And they don’t work well if it is raining or snowing. And finally, sticking one or more cylinders on the roof of a car isn’t aesthetically pleasing or particularly aerodynamic.

Mr. Eldada showed a $1,000 version of a spinning LIDAR sensor in Detroit and said the company will debut its $250 sensor at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016. That one will be a solid-state sensor. He declined to describe how such a system might function. The current sensors spin around, shooting lasers out several hundred feet, measuring the distance between objects. It functions much like radar, but faster and more accurately.

The Quanergy sensor won’t have spinning parts and Mr. Eldada says it will function in rain or snow.

Mr. Eldada said the company has signed supply agreements with two automakers and has development agreements with several more. Daimler AGDDAIY +0.62%Hyundai MotorCo.005380.SE +1.14% and Kia Motors Corp.000270.SE +2.42% and the Nissan-Renault Alliance are among the companies the company is working with.

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