Continental invades Silicon Valley. SpotHero acquisition. Space tech funding falls back to earth.
Seeing is believing
Sensing and perception continues to be the hot auto tech theme of 2017, with Austin Russell’s five-year-old Luminar Technologies becoming the latest company to reveal a new LiDAR design. The startup promises 50 times the resolution and 10 times the range of existing sensors.
Using our compare companies tool, we examined eight VC-backed sensing and perception startups targeting autonomous driving applications. All of these companies have raised at least one round of funding since last August, illustrating the attention that the field has drawn.
Many of these startups promise lower cost and/or higher-fidelity alternatives to traditionally pricey LiDAR sensors. LiDAR incumbent Velodyne, backed by Ford and Baidu, is expecting a record year as engineers face months-long waits for its sensor units.
The perception battleground has grown as fierce as autonomous driving itself. Startups are weighing the alternating priorities of resolution versus cost, while Waymo’s novel LiDAR designs are central to both its value proposition and its ongoing lawsuit against Otto and Uber.
Meanwhile, several startups (and Tesla) are betting that autonomous vehicles can be deployed with improving camera tech and computer vision alone.
The warehousing boom
Fueled by rising demand for online retail and competition for labor, e-commerce giants have been opening fulfillment centers at a blistering pace, driving warehousing wages and job markets upwards across the US.
In addition to traditional muscle, retailers are also leaning heavily on tech to optimize their warehouse operations. Amazon made an early push into robotics with its 2012 Kiva acquisition, but many other startups are still forging ahead on automation as well as management software, asset tracking, wearables and more. Check out our full market map to see all 48 companies.
The final frontier
Beyond the bevy of startups seeking to revolutionize earthbound transport, private companies working on spaceflight and associated tech have also risen to the fore, securing nearly $4B in funding over the past two years. 2017 has already seen some major deals, headlined by the SoftBank-sponsored merger of OneWeb and Intelsat.
Many of these companies are either indirectly or directly targeting transport industries with communications, navigational, or tracking-oriented use cases (Kymeta, which is developing satellite antennas to improve broadband access for aircraft, ships, and connected vehicles, saw a $73.6M financing last month).