This Startup Is Developing Low-Cost Sensors That Could Allow Self-Driving Cars to ‘See’

October 24, 2017, 4:57 PM UTC

A Munich-based startup is developing a low-cost technology to allow self-driving cars to “see.” The company believes its product could make the process of mass manufacturing autonomous vehicles much more affordable.

The startup, Blickfeld, just closed $4.25 million in seed funding from a number of German venture capital firms, according to TechCrunch. Fluxunit led the round, with additional investments by High-Tech Gründerfonds, Tengelmann Ventures, and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners. The money will be used to advance Blickfeld’s light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system, which it hopes will begin first trials with auto equipment manufacturers early next year.

LiDAR is widely viewed as a key technology essential to making self-driving cars safe. Its sensors survey near-infrared light to detect the shape of objects, allowing autonomous vehicles to see and analyze the world around them.

Other self-driving car companies, such as Alphabet’s Waymo, use the same tech. It’s also deployed in drones and airplanes, but Blickfeld believes its product stands out due to its “commercial off-the-shelf components and silicon,” according to TechCrunch, meaning the system could be mass-produced at a cheaper price without sacrificing quality and safety standards.

TechCrunch reports that Blickfeld’s LiDAR system specifically uses a patent-pending scanner that can create “high-definition, three-dimensional geometric maps” which “closes the gap between today’s high-cost systems and the automotive mass-market needs,” the startup said, according to the outlet.