The highly valued partner of this interview is Mr. Hector Fratty, former R&D director of Valeo Lighting; president of the VISION congress; founder and CEO of Driving Vision News—a unique organisation providing independent information about automotive exterior lighting and in-cabin equipment.
DVN : Hector, after your ambitious career in the vehicle lighting industry you have used your retirement to successfully found and grow Driving Vision News. Your worldwide DVN community currently comprises close to two hundred member companies—automakers; suppliers; research institutes, and universities. What are the key elements driving you to start a similar community for automotive lidar?
Three key factors made me take the decision to include lidar in the DVN portfolio:
- Within the DVN team we observe the automotive market regularly, especially also with respect to driving automation. Therefore a couple of years ago it became clear to the team that lidar systems will evolve as a key contributor for ADAS and autonomous driving;
- From a technology point of view, automotive lidar systems have a lot of similarities with lighting systems, so synergies can be expected, and
- An integration of lidar sensors in vehicle front and rear lamps is a realistic scenario which can bring lighting and lidar players close together.
Therefore in my mind it made sense to evaluate this lidar segment and after our successful start with the first lidar conference in 2018 it was clear to me to further follow this technology.
DVN: You have deep experience with the vehicle lighting community. What were the key success factors to grow the community and to successfully contribute to the progress of vehicle lighting with the original DVN, and vehicle interiors with DVN-I?
H.F.: The first key success factor was to go slowly, seeking out real needs to serve. The first DVN Workshop was attended by fewer than 15 companies, just to understand their needs. Then—year after year, month after month, week after week—I work to fulfill their needs while better knowing them.
The second key success factor is to give real, cutting-edge, and accurate information. Many decisions could be taken partly considering the DVN news and it is important to have the trust of members. And last but not least, I strive to facilitate co-operation and relationship between DVN members not only by the global, worldwide workshops, but also through the DVN website and the DVN introduction from one to the other.
In summary, reacting to the needs of the members by true and impartial cutting-edge information and building contact between members is the paramount requirement for success of such a global community. This is the DNA of DVN.
DVN: What is the DVN-L offer to the members of the lidar community?
H.F.: In the context of our new lidar community, DVN proposes to answer to their needs comprehensively. There will be a monthly DVN-L Newsletter which will be sent to members to facilitate the carefully-focused flow of news to share crucial information about cutting-edge technologies and market development; interviews on specific topics and reports on industry innovation and progress, and announcement and reportage on DVN-Lidar events (as well as important other events). We will organise events—seminars and workshops—to facilitate live information sharing; to discuss common goals, and to enable networking.
And we’ll back all of this with a sturdy communication platform for community members, in the form of the DVN website.
DVN: What will the DVN-L community contribute to the development of the lidar industry?
H.F.: Several studies emphasise the great future of the lidar business, but with many challenges to overcome for a broad market introduction. The target of the lidar community is to reduce these challenges, working together to break down the barriers, to prove to automakers and worldwide authorities the importance of lidar for safety. We will succeed only if we work together. Even though companies are in competition with each other, the common goal of a broad market introduction is a unifying element. Together it will be possible to form and grow winning, productive, rewarding relationships among component suppliers; lidar suppliers and supporters; tier-1s, automakers, and end users and society at large.
DVN: How do you expect to work?
H.F.: Our ambition is to create a leading communication platform to link the industry value chain; test houses; research institutes, and regulators. The main topics of interest should be use case definition and testing; promotion of lidar applications along the value chain and for the public; acting as a neutral intermediate to NGOs and the media, and related activities. It is crucial to have a diverse, representative mix of community members including automakers; tier-1 and -2 suppliers; regulators; researchers, and other interested parties.
Automotive lidar technology is in an embryonic stage and still developing fast. There are many companies involved, including startups, promoting a wide spectrum of different technologies and techniques. It is important for DVN to take a technology-neutral position to the maximum practicable degre. The largest investments made on automotive lidar are done in the U.S. and China, so we need to actively support the lidar ecosystem worldwide. China has the potential to adopt fast and in large volumes due to governmental initiatives linked to safety and accident reduction.
DVN: How are you organising this new lidar community?
H.F.: We started in November 2018, with the launch of a DVN Automotive Lidar Conference. In September 2019, we launched the first study dedicated to automotive lidar. Since then, we’ve kept organising conferences on automotive lidar, and this year in November 2022 we will organise already our fifth conference.
In February 2021, encouraged by the enthusiasm at the conferences and our experience in automotive lighting, the idea was born to create a lidar community and the “think tank” seminar organised in February 2022 was the real launch.
DVN: If you look some years ahead, what is your dream about the status of the DVN lidar community?
H.F.: I would like to repeat the success of the lighting community, but at a higher speed. Market developments as well as technology progress in the automotive area are much more disruptive than expected in the last decade, so the lidar community has to adapt to this pace. I see three elements as pivotal for a successful community:
- Common understanding of end-user and society needs to establish meaningful use cases for lidar systems; promoting and supporting a positive mindset in media and public;
- Pushing innovation for creating the best possible systems to satisfy the relevant use cases. This should include an integration of lighting and lidar where it makes sense, and I think there are ample opportunities.
- Wherever necessary, express a common voice of the community with respect to industry standardisation and regulatory bodies, interest groups, and other authorities on a global level.
Thank you, Hector, for this interview. We wish the lidar community – and you, personally—all success!DVN-L Comment