Ambitious [lidar] engineer at center of colossal fight between Google and Uber

Anthony Levandowski has become Google's enemy number one. 

In 2013, Anthony Levandowski was the star of Google's self-driving car project. The tall, swaggering engineer was featured in a long New Yorker story about the search engine willing the impossible technology into reality.

Less than four years later, he is Google's enemy number one.

On Thursday, Waymo, the Alphabet Inc. company formed from Google's self-driving project, filed a blistering lawsuit accusing Levandowski of taking incredibly valuable intellectual property from Alphabet to his current company, Uber Technologies Inc. Read the full story on Bloomberg.
The Laser Focus World take:

The lidar wars are on--actually, they've been on for some time as startups generate new or improved laser-based lidar technologies and investors and the auto industry manuever, acquire, and invest in the technologies to help them develop assisted or self-driving vehicles.

We've had a number of articles covering this story, mostly focused on the lidar technologies. The lead character in the Bloomberg story published above, Anthony Levandowski, was also a panelist at our 2016 Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, just as he was leaving Google for his new startup, Otto.

Related articles:
Lidar nears ubiquity as miniature systems proliferate - good 2015 survey article by senior editor Gail Overton

New lidar systems steal the headlines at CES2017 - some of the latest news from CES by contributing editor Andreas Thoss

And here's a summary of the lidar wars from our January feature, Annual Laser Market Review & Forecast: Where have all the lasers gone?

Consider what has happened to light detection and ranging (lidar) laser technologies, for example. "In August of 2016, lidar company Quanergy Systems joined autonomous robotics startup Zoox as a member of the billion-dollar-valuation unicorn club, Ford and Chinese Internet company Baidu invested $150 million in Velodyne,3 and in October 2016, Infineon complemented its radar IC portfolio with MEMS chips for solid-state laser lidar by acquiring Innoluce," says Alex Lidow, founder and CEO of Efficient Power Conversion Corporation (EPC; El Segundo, CA), manufacturer of gallium-nitride (GaN) power semiconductors that enable lasers to emit and detect photons 100X faster than silicon devices for centimeter ranging resolution. "It's no secret that lidar has emerged as one of the hottest laser-enabled technologies in recent memory, but what is surprising is how rapidly—a short 2 to 3 years—the technology went from Google-car curiosity to mainstream driver-assist implementation."

There is a reason lidar is becoming ubiquitous.4 The ranging capability of lasers cannot be matched by visual camera technology-case in point: the Tesla car on Autopilot could have seen that semi-trailer truck and avoided the tragic collision that made headlines in late June 2016 had it been equipped with a lidar system.

Despite this consumer setback, Lidow predicts that merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the autonomous vehicle market will continue as companies seek to differentiate their lidar systems offering and enter the market faster with lower-cost lidar options. In fact, the Cars 2025: Vol. 3 Global Investment Research report from the Goldman Sachs Group (New York, NY) entitled "Monetizing the rise of Autonomous Vehicles"6 predicts that lidar will be a $10.6 billion—yes, billion—market by 2025.

In August 2016, Bloomberg (New York, NY) reported that Uber's acquisition of self-driving technology company Otto7 would allow Uber to replace its 100 million human drivers with robot drivers as quickly as possible. Lidow sees lidar as the sensor of choice not only for self-driving cars and driver assistance, but also for drone navigation and autonomous industrial robotics.
Conard Holton
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