Kfar Saba-based Innoviz Technologies announced last week that it will begin supplying German auto giant BMW Group with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) remote sensing technology for its autonomous vehicle production. The partnership will run through Innoviz’s partner, global car parts supplier Magna International, which will be responsible for the integration of the technology to the BMW platform with Innoviz providing the LiDAR and computer vision software.
Innoviz Technologies CEO and co-founder Omer Keilaf tells NoCamels that this partnership marks the first time an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will take on LiDAR for a mass production project.
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“This is [also] the first time a real autonomous platform is going to be sold to private people,” he adds.
“This is a big endorsement for us. BMW is a thought leader in premium cars,” Keilaf tells NoCamels. He added that, prior to this, BMW also pushed to bring in Jerusalem-based company Mobileye, which develops sensors and advanced driver assistance systems and was sold to Intel in 2017 for $15.3 billion, for a partnership between the three and Delphi Automotive (now known as Aptiv) to co-develop an autonomous driving platform by 2021.
Innoviz’s participation now makes the Israeli company a significant part of the effort.
“They have a good understanding of what we’re doing,” Keilaf says of BMW, “This is the right time to go to market.”
Founded in January 2016 by Omer Keilaf, Oren Rosenzweig, Oren Buskila and Amit Steinberg, all former members of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Intelligence Corps, Innoviz Technologies has become a leading provider of LiDAR sensing solutions for mass commercialization of autonomous vehicles, developing technology that generates a precise and constantly updating 3D map of a car’s surroundings.
The company has raised $82 million to date, including a $73 million Series B funding round in 2017, which included participation from Delphi Automotive and Magna International.
At the annual CES (International Consumer Electronics Show) conference in Las Vegas, one of the biggest and most important trade shows, Innoviz demoed its newest product, the InnovizOne High-Resolution 3D LiDAR. It was also named an CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree for its InnovizPro High Definition Solid-State LiDAR. (It was also included in NoCamels 2017 list of “superhero startups” and thei 2018 list of startups making their mark on the world, in honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Innoviz’s game-changing technology, says Keilaf, leverages specific systems in the vehicle to give the autonomous cars superior sensing capabilities in challenging environments including bright and direct sunlight, various weather conditions, and other factors on the road including shadows and low lights.
According to Keilaf, LiDAR sensors have traditionally been heavy, bulky items that spin when added to the roof of a car. Innoviz’s LiDAR tech is smaller, embedded within the car, without the need to spin constantly (which is why they refer to it as a “solid-state” LiDAR.) Keilaf says it’s like a “small web camera” providing a 360-degree view around the car. It’s small and “solid” nature makes it ideal for commercialized autonomous vehicles, where aesthetics do matter to a larger extent.
Those bulkier lasers are so expensive, costing upwards of $75,000, Keilaf explains. Auto manufacturers are always looking for technology that is “10 times better, 100 times smaller, and 1,000 times cheaper.” Innoviz solves that problem by using one or two lasers to scan the area through silicon chips, rather than actual parts. The result is a much smaller detector with a much cheaper price.
InnovizPro, the company’s development platform designed to provide auto manufacturers, Tier 1 suppliers, and tech companies with advanced LiDAR, will be available in about a month, Keilaf says. He also says samples of InnovizOne, the company’s automotive grade LiDAR device will be available in 2019.
In a recent NoCamels article on the future of innovation as predicted by Israeli venture capitalists, Vertex Ventures general partner Emanuel Timor suggested Innoviz as a startup to watch in the automotive industry.
“It’s known in Israel in several segments, “Timor said, “This puts it in an amazing position.”
Innoviz joins at least two other Israeli firms making it big in the international auto field, Mobileye and Argus Cyber Security.
Both firms have developed innovative solutions and were later bought by companies looking to advance their powerful technology. After Mobileye was acquired by Intel last year in what is considered Israel’s largest high tech company exit to date, Argus Cyber Security, an Israeli-based global leader in cybersecurity solutions, was acquired by German car parts maker Continental AG for over $400 million in November 2017.
There are also reports that entrepreneur Elon Musk’s electric vehicles giant Tesla was in talks with vision firm Cortica, a Tel Aviv-based company developing “next-generation” AI technology to create a computer vision system for autonomous platforms, including vehicles. Elon Musk has denied these talks and Cortica would not confirm them.
Keilaf says the partnerships Innoviz has developed with OEMs and other companies are crucial to the progression and elevation of the company’s ultimate goal — the mass production of its tech.
While you don’t necessarily see autonomous driving itself going into mass production, he says, this will help lower costs of Innoviz products and help the company enter other markets that could benefit from its technology.
“Our focus is higher volume,” he says, “We are really trying to provide a solution that will allow it.”