McIntyre spoke with Staff Reporter Alexa St. John about her transition to Sense Photonics and how its lidar differs from others on the market. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Explain the concept of your solid-state flash lidar.
A: We have a very unique architecture in that it fills a gaping hole in the market as it is today in terms of having high-performance, 3D visioning at a price point that enables mass adoption.
It also is the only system that has the high-performance cost-efficiency in a robust package without any moving parts. Other companies may have solid-state solutions, but they still have moving parts. It's basically a camera, but the field of light emitted is beyond the range of a human eye. That's why it's a laser. Everything else is chip-based. It's very cameralike.
Has COVID-19 altered your industrial or automotive-focused applications?
We really haven't seen much of a slowdown in terms of interest in our technology. We have more use cases in industrial than we had anticipated because of COVID. Companies are thinking more about how their workers interact with their plants or their warehouses and how they get goods to customers. More automation is coming to warehouses. Because the pandemic has lasted as long as it has, and it's going to continue to last, I think we are seeing big companies investing in technology that will really change the way we interact with products today.
Did you imagine different use cases when you joined Sense?
I've always taken the passenger-vehicle market with a grain of salt. The variability of the environment is so great with passenger vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are already deployed today in controlled environments such as mining. What other controlled environments can we create or tap into that will enable autonomy, such as routing? I see that as being a possibility in the foreseeable future.
I see trucking, too. Overnight trucking in rural areas, highway driving, where there's not a lot of variability. There's an evolution of autonomy, and I think it will be largely driven by how controlled is the environment.
Is Sense partnering with cities on this?
We have a government contract right now. That's been another one of our stationary applications. That was a natural parlay into a smart intersection, smart city application.
Do you see Sense as having competitors?
There are a lot of competitors, but if you segment by cost, it depends on what wavelength of light you use as your emitter. If you go longer length — which many of the automotive companies have done for theoretical performance — what that does is pushes it into an impossible cost curve.
By staying at shorter wavelength, we've been able to stay silicon-based with both our emitter and our detector. When it comes to moving parts and nonmoving parts, a lot of these companies still have a ton of moving parts and complexity there. No moving parts and the lower wavelength, that's where we're alone.
What is the future of mobility right now, especially amid COVID-19?
It's become tame and more realistic. I think also a key player is government and legislation. When we talk about the partnerships and stakeholders in this industry to evolve, the government is a key one.
What's next for Sense?
What's exciting for us between now and the end of the year is our proof of concept of our 200-meter flash lidar product based off our Osprey modularized product line. It uses our proprietary detector that we are already showing encouraging results toward the 200-meter-plus range.
Into 2021, it's about scaling in these industrial use cases as well as scaling our automotive partnerships both in terms of the autonomous vehicle as well as [advanced driver-assistance systems], building out our strategic supply base, partnering with companies that already have an installed base of technology and manufacturing capacity to build out our systems and continuing the validation of our 200-meter product.