A look into eight sensing and vision startups as VCs and strategic investors hunt for opportunities within the self-driving ecosystem.
The excitement surrounding autonomous driving technology has pitched corporations into a frantic race to develop their own capabilities and helped drive over a billion dollars to private auto tech companies in 2016. Though corporations and startups working directly on self-driving tech have naturally drawn public attention, investors have also been hunting for opportunities within the broader ecosystem and enabling technologies.
Startups developing autonomous driving sensing hardware and vision technologies have become some of the hottest commodities within the broader auto tech space. Using the CB Insights Company Comparison Tool, we profiled eight VC-backed startups in this field that have raised funding since August 2016. For more on computer vision generally, check out our market map of 60+ startups in deep learning.
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The unicorn Quanergy is by far the most well-funded of the group, having most recently raised a $90M Series B in late August at a $1.59B post-money valuation. Quanergy, which was seeded in late 2013, has been working on solid state LiDAR solutions, which have no moving parts and have been touted as lowering costs by an order of magnitude (traditional LiDAR is cost-prohibitive to deploy at scale, ranging into thousands of dollars per unit).
Traditional LiDAR pucks have become a familiar sight in the autonomous vehicle industry, with developers now facing multi-month waits for new devices. Luminar Technologies, TetraVue, Blackmore, and Innoviz Technologies are all working on leapfrogging current LiDAR capabilities while driving down cost. (Not pictured here is the incumbent LiDAR vendor Velodyne, which is not VC-backed but received a $150M investment from Ford and Baidu to produce its own lower-cost sensors.)
Meanwhile, France-based Chronocam is working on advanced CMOS camera sensors targeted towards visual sensing applications in autonomous vehicles as well as security and surveillance systems. Oryx Vision, which most recently raised $17M Series A, is an Israeli company working on solid state sensing for autonomous driving. However, they are skeptical that solid state LiDAR will meet the performance required by manufacturers, instead focusing on nano-antennas for their depth-sensing solution.
Corporations and corporate VC arms with strategic interests have taken a strong interest in these fields, particularly chipmakers and automotive suppliers. Intel Capital and Renault have backed Chronocam, while Samsung Ventures, Sensata, and Delphi have invested in Quanergy. Bosch’s VC has invested in both Chronocam and TetraVue. Other investors range from smart money VCs like Bessemer and Greylock to mobility-focused firms like Motus Ventures, Trucks VC, AutoTech Ventures, and Maniv.
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