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Automotive lidar firms receive investment boost

A number of lidar firms offering systems for autonomous vehicles have received investment and partnership offerings that will bring their technology closer to being commercialised on a wide scale.

Israeli-based Innoviz Technologies has entered a commercial partnership agreement with Delphi Automotive that will see its lidar sensing solutions integrated into Delphi’s systems, while lidar innovator Oryx Vision also recently announced the completion of a $50 million funding round that will allow it to accelerate its development activities and intensify its commercial engagements with car OEMs, tier-one suppliers and technology players.

Innoviz’s lidar technology features a solid-state design that provides longer-range scanning performance and superior object detection and accuracy capabilities. Long range lidar is critical for enabling autonomous vehicles to travel at high speeds, as identifying objects at far distances and in great detail will enable them to operate safely. By integrating Innoviz’s technology into its systems, Delphi Automotive will be able to provide automakers with a comprehensive portfolio of autonomous driving technologies.

‘Along with radar and vision technology, lidar is an essential component to Delphi's automated driving perception suite,’ commented Glen De Vos, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Delphi Automotive. ‘Innoviz is developing a product that provides a high performance intelligent sensing solution to help advance automated driving technology.’

‘Delphi shares our vision for making vehicles smarter and safer,’ added Omer Keilaf, co-founder and CEO of Innoviz. ‘By challenging the conventions of lidar design, we were able to develop a lidar solution that delivers superior performance at a reasonable price and in a much smaller footprint – three factors that are required to help autonomous driving achieve mass commercialisation.’

To further support the commercial partnership, Delphi has also made a minority investment in Innoviz.

The successful $50 million series B funding round by Oryx Vision was completed only 15 months after its first funding round, bringing the total investment in the company to $67 million. The funding was led by Third Point Ventures and WRV, with Union Tech Ventures and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Maniv Mobility and Trucks VC also contributing.

‘We are delighted to receive a vote of confidence in our vision from such sophisticated investors, and to have the resources to bring this technology to market quickly and at the highest quality,’ commented Rani Wellingstein, Oryx co-founder and CEO.

Oryx’s offers a coherent flash lidar system with no moving parts that can achieve the depth vision performance required for autonomous driving, while simultaneously offering the simplicity and robustness of a digital camera.

‘Oryx is building the first solution that will meet all the key requirements of automotive lidar – high performance, car durability and low price – without a tradeoff,’ Wellingstein remarked.

While conventional lidar systems operate by tracing the energy of light particles with photodetectors, Oryx’s variation instead uses silicon microscopic antennas to detect light wave frequencies. This enables a low-cost system that offers a million times more sensitivity – according to the company – interference resistance from the sun and other lidar systems, and the ability to produce both range and velocity data for every point in its field of view.

Having demonstrated the capabilities of its technology over the past year, the company expects to ship units for car-mounted testing in the second half of 2018.

Canadian lidar firm LeddarTech recently sold 25.1 per cent of its shares to lighting manufacturer Osram in a deal valued in the mid double-digit million euros range. The investment is part of a larger financing round currently underway by LeddarTech that is expected to be finalised in the near future.

Driver assistance is set to represent a €9bn market for photonics by 2020, according to a report by Tematys. Earlier in the year, US solid-state lidar start-up TetraVue raised $10 million in investment based on the autonomous vehicle market.

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