Lidar Stocks: What Are They & How Do You Pick the Best Ones?

By Colin Dodds · August 11, 2023 · 4 minute read

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Lidar Stocks: What Are They & How Do You Pick the Best Ones?

Many people associate “Lidar” with the sensors that enable self-driving cars — but there are a growing number of applications for this technology that can offer attractive new opportunities for investors. New developments in self-driving cars and other smart products are driving demand for Lidar technology, which is in turn helping to spur the growth of Lidar companies innovating in this space.

What Is Lidar? How Is it Used?

Lidar is short for “light detection and ranging,” and Lidar works by using short bursts of light from lasers to create a 3-D rendering of an object or environment.

Devices equipped with Lidar detect nearby objects, and process massive amounts of data to determine information such as their size, direction and speed of movement — which is why Lidar has become a core technology in the sensors that may one day allow self-driving cars to operate safely.

What many people don’t know is that Lidar is also at work in the newest smartphones and other automated devices like robot vacuum cleaners, which use Lidar to scan the environment and maneuver through a room.

Lidar is also widely used for measurement and imaging in an array of scientific disciplines, including oceanography, archaeology, forestry, seismology, robotics and atmospheric physics. For that reason, some lidar technology stocks attract investor interest.

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The Advantages of Lidar

Lidar offers several advantages over similar technologies, such as radar, because light has a shorter wavelength than radio waves. By sending out repeated laser bursts, Lidar can offer a clearer picture of a given target.

For example, the Lidar sensors on some smartphones can give users almost instantaneous estimates of the size, shape and distance of an object, a capability that has enabled better experiences of augmented reality.

Also, as the Internet of Things (IoT), an element of Web 3.0, moves toward increasingly autonomous and interconnected machines, those devices will likely need sophisticated sensors to operate safely and effectively, which is another reason why Lidar companies and Lidar stocks are catching the eye of investors large and small.

Some Lidar Drawbacks

That said, investors considering Lidar technology stocks should be aware of some of the drawbacks as these may present some investment risks. Although Lidar technology can be highly sophisticated, critics note that some Lidar systems can lag in a more dynamic environment (e.g. driving in traffic), where a swift analysis of driving conditions is critical to safety.

Another drawback is that some Lidar sensors may weigh all data points equally in a given environment, and fail to take into account a more present danger like a certain obstacle or bad weather. For example: Lidar functionality has also been compromised by rainy or cloudy conditions, or very bright sun — as any of these can interfere with the light reflection and refraction that’s fundamental to the technology.

Lidar Stocks to Watch

Given the growth of the industry, and industries utilizing Lidar technology, there are numerous lidar stocks on the market. While investors will likely come up with a list by engaging in a quick internet search, it’s important to remember that Lidar is a developing technology, and that all stocks have associated risks. In short: Be sure to do your homework before investing in Lidar stocks.

Evaluating Potential Investment Risks With Lidar Stocks

Lidar has been finding its ways into the products people use on a daily basis, and it holds great promise as an enabler for many technologies in many different fields. As such, investors may find investment opportunities through one or several public Lidar companies.

But investing in Lidar stocks comes with some risks. One risk factor investors should consider: a single version of Lidar technology might emerge as a frontrunner, elevating one patent-holding company to prominence and relegating others to the status of also-rans. On the flip side, there is also the risk that one company’s technology might be adopted, but not widely.

And while Lidar is seen by many as an essential technology in self-driving cars, there is some debate on this point, with reports indicating that some automakers are exploring other types of sensors and networks to create safe, viable autonomous vehicles.

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The Takeaway

Lidar technology and sensors are well-entrenched in the autonomous car market, and now a growing number of companies are finding innovative ways to use this laser-driven technology to make advancements in other industries — like oceanography, seismology, robotics and more.

While the expanding array of players in the Lidar space may be contributing to a sense of excitement about what the future of Lidar may hold, competing companies and technologies also indicate that this is a sector that’s still in flux, and there is much for investors to weigh when it comes to choosing the best Lidar stocks.

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Photo credit: iStock/Drazen_

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