Semiconductor company Infineon has acquired 100% of Innoluce BV, a fabless semiconductor company headquartered in Nijmegen. Based on the know-how of Innoluce, Infineon will develop chip components for high-performance light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems. Both companies agreed on confidentiality on the terms.
Innoluce was founded in 2010 as an entrepreneurial spin-off of Royal Philips. It is a fabless semiconductor company headquartered in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, near the Dutch-German border. The company has a strong expertise in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). Innoluce is a leading innovator of miniature laser scanning modules that integrate silicon-based solid-state MEMS micro-mirrors. Such micro-mirrors are necessary to adjust the laser beams in automotive LiDAR systems.
Innoluce’s platform of solid-state laser scanning modules is based on unique resonant 1D MEMS mirror technology and integrated ASIC. The patented 1D MEMS mirrors are built from silicon with the freedom to modify the mirror diameter and the frequency while maintaining optical performance.
Innoluce’s MEMS mirror technology meets the highly demanding automotive requirements on temperature and vibrations. Temperature stability tests show less than 0.5% frequency change over the full automotive operating temperature range. Even in the the most severe vibration tests, the frequency variation remains below 0.5%.
Innoluce says that its solid-state laser scanning modules enable long range (>200 meter), high resolution (<0.1°), solid state automotive LIDAR for a price point below US$100.
LiDAR, radar and camera will be the three key sensor technologies for semi-automated and fully automated cars. With this acquisition, Infineon will deliver expertise in all three complementary sensor systems which provide the redundancy required for autonomous driving. While radar uses radio-frequency electromagnetic waves, LiDAR employs laser beams to measure the distance to objects adjacent to the car. Scanning LiDAR systems help to detect small objects on the road.
With this acquisition, we take a big step into the LiDAR technology that will play an important role in the safety cocoon essential to fully automated cars. We intend to make LiDAR an affordable feature for every new-built car worldwide.—Peter Schiefer, President of the Automotive division at Infineon
The first LiDAR systems to be introduced in premium cars within the next couple of years will be based on mechanical scanning mirrors and, thus, are bulky and rather expensive. To become a standard feature in all car classes, LiDAR systems need to be semiconductor-based, Infineon says, thus becoming more compact, cost-effective, and robust.
Infineon has already helped to bring radar technology as an additional safety feature to the vehicle mass market: the use of proven technologies from chip mass production and a new chip packaging technology reduced both manufacturing costs and size of radar systems significantly.
For their technological breakthroughs, Infineon’s radar chip team was nominated in 2015 for the prestigious German Future Award (Deutscher Zukunftspreis), the German President’s Award for Innovation in Science and Technology.