Back in 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook approved an ambitious project to make an Apple-branded, self-driving car that would take on Tesla in the electric vehicle space.
The project, codenamed “Titan,” has been moving in fits and starts ever since then. Ultimately, it has produced nothing tangible for consumers to see, and Wall Street has largely written off the “Apple Car” initiative as a smokescreen.
Multiple reports have emerged over the past few weeks which together corroborate that Apple, today, is pushing more aggressively than ever before on project Titan, and that the world’s largest technology company is targeting to fully produce a self-driving electric vehicle by 2024.
That’s a big deal.
Apple is Apple. This is the company behind the world’s most popular consumer hardware products, like the iPhone, Mac, iPad and Apple Watch. This is a company with nearly $200 billion in cash on its balance sheet, and about 150,000 highly-qualified employees…
Now, this company – with the most experience in the world, the most money in the world, and the most engineering and design talent in the world – is going to make a car.
This Apple Car has the potential to be truly disruptive… and turn into an enormous hit like the iPhone.
But here’s the real-kicker: Apple isn’t going to build the Apple Car all by itself.
The company has a long history of partnering with and outsourcing parts of the hardware production supply chain to other companies. The Apple Car will be no exception to this trend.
That’s why Apple has held talks with companies like Canoo, Hyundai, and Nissan in recent months. Apple wants partners to help it build the best self-driving EV in the world.
Apple will likely also look for a self-driving technology partner, too. Specifically, the company will likely partner with a LiDAR maker, since those laser sensors are scientifically difficult to make and quasi-necessary for automotive autonomy.
There are a lot of potential partners in the mix here. But there’s a new entrant in the LiDAR maker space which could emerge as the most likely Apple Car LiDAR supplier…
Today, we will tell you all about this new LiDAR maker. To be sure, it’s a very speculative company – and therefore, should be perceived as a high-risk, high-reward situation. Still, if a few things go right for this company over the next 3-4 months, we could be talking about a huge winner.
This Company May Have Just Made the Best LiDAR in the World
A week ago, a small, $3 billion hardware technology company that hardly anyone had ever of before made a groundbreaking announcement.
The company’s name? MicroVision (NASDAQ:MVIS).
The claim? They had just made the world’s best LiDAR.
Specifically, MicroVision – a laser beam scanning technology company with a history of promising yet ultimately fruitless products – said that it had received the necessary components and equipment to complete A-Samples of its Long Range LiDAR sensor.
The first generation of that sensor is expected to feature up to 250 meters of range and 520 points per square degree of resolution. Even further, it is expected to achieve sub-$1,000 costs per car at scale.
Those are mind-boggling numbers.
For reference, Luminar – the current performance leader in automotive LiDAR by a long shot – is making LiDAR sensors with the same range (250 meters) and less resolution (about 300 points per square degree).
Luminar also happens to be the cost-leader in LiDAR. They are the only company to-date to commercialize LiDAR sensors at sub-$1,000 all-in prices. MicroVision would be just the second to crack that milestone.
Thus, if MicroVision is being honest about its LiDAR, then this company has just invented the best LiDAR sensors in the world.
Admittedly, that’s a huge “if.” And there are plenty of reasons to believe that MicroVision is exaggerating performance metrics here, including that the company has never before commercialized any sort of super-advanced, breakthrough technology in over 20 years of operation.
There is one big reason to believe MicroVision may have actually solved the LiDAR puzzle, and that’s the company’s MEMs-based laser technology.
Quick recap for new readers: LiDAR systems need mirrors to reflect the laser pulses they send out into the world. The status quo in LiDAR today is to mechanically move those mirrors at a constant motion. But doing so requires a motor, which is often bulky and expensive. So, a new generation of companies – like Innoviz – are leveraging what are called Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMs) to replace those motors with mirrors whose tilt angles vary when an electric stimulus is applied.
These MEMs mirrors are much cheaper and smaller than motors, and thus, are broadly considered by many of the engineers I talk to in the self-driving industry as the future of LiDAR sensors.
MicroVision is an expert in MEMs-based laser technology, and the company’s LiDAR uses MEMs mirrors.
Is it possible, then, that this no-name company just made the world’s best LiDAR?
Believe it or not, yes. It’s not likely. But it is certainly possible – and if so, then this company would be a prime target for an Apple takeover.
You have a small company that wouldn’t cost much to acquire. A small engineering team that would be easy to assimilate. A breakthrough technology that would be tough to replicate.
Thus, if MicroVision is being honest about the performance of its LiDAR, then this company could get acquired by Apple for an enormous premium in 2021 – and/or reject that offer and turn into one of the biggest LiDAR companies in the world.
We will know the answer to that question by April. That’s when MicroVision will start testing its LiDAR in the real-world. The company will likely deliver an update on those early tests in either April or May. If that update is positive, this stock could soar by a whole bunch…
So, if you’re looking for a high-risk, high-reward way to play the self-driving revolution, you should put MicroVision stock on your radar today.
P.S. If you’ve been following my work, you know I’m extremely bullish on innovation. And right now, we have rarely seen such opportune moments throughout history to invest in innovation.
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On the date of publication, Luke Lango did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
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