The LiDAR Coalition Against Elon Musk

Above: Omer David Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder of Innoviz (left) and Elon Musk

Two of the world’s experts in safety LiDAR technologies, established a new industrial group aiming to promote the deployment of lidar-based intelligent infrastructure and automotive safety technology. Ted Tewksbury, CEO of California-based Velodyne Lidar, and Omer David Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder of Israel-based Innoviz Technologies, along with AEye, Cepton, Continental, Ouster and Quanergy Systems inaugurated last month The Lidar Coalition activity in a coordinated effort to convince decision and policy makers to adopt broad lidar deployment.

Tewksbury and Keilaf published a letter on Auto Jobs Now to explain the motived of the new advocacy group: “In recent years we have seen a tragic rise in pedestrian fatalities on our nation’s roadways. Public awareness campaigns and enforcement can only go so far in stemming the tide — we must embrace innovative technologies to prevent crashes and reverse this trend. This is why we are forming the Lidar Coalition, a global group of companies that, through U.S. policy advocacy, is dedicated to deployment of lifesaving technology that has the most potential to prevent harm to vulnerable road users.

3D map of the surrounding environment

“According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths in the U.S. jumped by 46 percent to 6,516 in 2020 from 4,457 in 2011. Even more alarming, the most recent statistics from NHTSA project that 42,915 people died on U.S. roadways in 2021, the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the highest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 13 percent over 2020, which outpaced the 10.5% increase in overall fatalities.”

Nightlife LiDAR image produced by Innoviz' sensor
Nightlife LiDAR image produced by Innoviz’ sensor

Light Detection and Ranging, or “lidar,” is a remote sensing method that uses pulsed light to create a 3D map of the surrounding environment. Lidar is an important component in emerging transportation technologies including smart infrastructure, traffic management, autonomous vehicles (“AV”), advanced driver assist systems (“ADAS”), and many other applications. According to the letter, “Light Detection and Ranging, or lidar, can “see” at the speed of light and in all lighting conditions, including at dusk and at night.

“LiDAR ‘a fool’s errand'”

The biggest opponent of the The Lidar Coalition is Tesla’s owner, Elon Musk, known also as a vocal opposer of LiDAR. “It’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very hard to get out of,” He said during February 2018 earnings call. “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.” In April 2019 he gave a presentation on Tesla’s autonomous driving project,  calling LiDAR “a fool’s errand”.

He said: “LIDAR can be incredibly expensive, and it’s a costly bet for most companies. They can make the job of selling self-driving cars to customers practically impossible thanks to the added costs. But companies that use LIDAR are already working on reducing those costs. “They are expensive sensors that are unnecessary.”

But on May 20, 2021, a Tesla Model Y was spotted driving the roads equipped with a LiDAR sensor system on its roof. In October 2021 a similar rig was observed at Illinois. Did he change his mind? There has been no official explanation from Tesla regarding this interesting issue, although unofficial commentators have guessed that Tesla is using LiDAR in order to train its vision cameras, and not to control its own Autonomous Driving Suite.

Innoviz Co-founder stepped down and left the company

Above: Oren Rosenzweig (left) and Tali Chen

Innoviz Technologies, announced a series of management team appointments. Oren Rosenzweig, Co-founder of the company, is stepping down from his position as Chief Business Officer and Board roles, effective immediately, to pursue new opportunities. Rosenzweig will continue in an active advisory role through summer 2022. He is replaced by Tali Chen, which will oversee the Company’s business development activities, establish sales targets and KPIs, and implement, report and review strategic sales and marketing plans.

Chen most recently served as CBO for DSP Group, a provider of semiconductors for wireless communications devices. DSPG  was acquired by Synaptics in December 2, 2021 for $549 million. Prior to her tenure at DSP Group, Chen served in corporate development roles for RADA Electronics, a global provider of avionics and Military radar systems.

Based in Rosh Hayeen (near Tel Aviv), Innoviz provides LiDAR technologies and perception software for the Automotive industry. A month ago the company announced that one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world has selected Innoviz to become its direct LiDAR supplier across multiple brands. The selection follows more than two years of extensive diligence and qualification, and will increase Innoviz’s forward-looking order book by $4 billion to $6.6 billion.

Innoviz also announced the appointments of Scott Craig and Brijesh Shukla as country managers of the U.S. and Japan, respectively. Craig brings decades of experience in the semiconductor and automotive industries, previously serving at onsemi where he was responsible for OEM business development at Ford Motor Company worldwide, Stellantis and Argo – worldwide. Shukla brings twenty years of experience in direct customer-facing roles for companies such as Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi.

According to Fact.MR, The global automotive LiDAR market expected to reach a valuation of US$ 3 Bn by 2031, with sales growing at a 19.5% CAGR, compared with $43o million in 2021. Based on technology, the solid-state LiDAR segment will account for 60% of the total market share. Increasing sales of autonomous vehicles will spur demand for automotive LiDAR systems.

BMW launched series 7 with Innoviz’s sensor inside

Following joint efforts lasted 4 years, Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor arrives to the market with the new BMW 7 series. Last week, the German car maker launched the new generation of its luxury cars, expected to be available at November 2022. The new series includes gas-powered cars, hybrid cars and – for the first time – an all electric model, BMW i7, equipped with a battery expected to range to 300 miles at each charge.  

Starting at 2023, the new 7 series will be BMW’s first to incorporate the Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor, a sensor defined by BMW as “the most powerful sensor in the industry”. BMW market the new models as the cutting edge technology, regarding driver safety and assistance applications, autonomous driving, integrated augmented reality and digitization. Innoviz’s sensor is considered a key component in the sensors array that support these applications, together with full-range radar with vertical separation, and an eight-megapixel windshield camera.   

In March 2022, Omer Keilaf, Innoviz’s CEO, revealed that the sensor developed for BMW has reached to the design freeze phase, after successfully passing all examinations. This means that from that moment, no changes are allowed to the BMW approved plan, and it will be produced in its current design. Mass production is expected already at 2022.

The car drives better than you

As part of its pre-launch marketing, BMW invited bloggers and leading automotive reporters for a test drive of the new models, which led to reviews and columns in leading industry websites such as Drive, Which Car, HT Auto, Forbes and more. One of the testers was “The Drive” reporter Chris Tsui. In its article “BMW Joins the Hands-Free Driving Fight”, Tsui was impressed by the ADAS and the autonomous driving systems relied on Innoviz’s sensor, and summarized the experience: “BMW’s latest flagship sedans are probably better at driving than you are”. He also noted that the semi-autonomous tech and improved self-parking capabilities make the car “more like a machine driver rather than a machine meant to be driven”.

The i7 model includes Level 2 hands-on Assisted Driving applications, assuring rendition of adaptive cruise with lane-keep. Below 85 mph, hands-off semi-autonomous highway cruising mode can be used, similar to Tesla’s Autopilot mode. In this mode, the car performs the steering, accelerating, and braking activities autonomously, with the driver required to keep looking at the road without holding the wheel. The system is also capable of autonomously move from one lane to the other. When approaching a highway exit, the driver may instruct the system to automatically move gradually from one line to the other, as long as the traffic is not too heavy or the exit is too close.   

Self navigation into your home garage

BMW announced that in the future it will provide the level-3 autonomy at these models, at up to 37 mph, and also in non-highway roads. For this type of autonomy, the Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor is essential. Commentators from the automotive industry estimate that this capability will be highly attractive at the Chinese market, where the average speed within urban areas is relatively low due to traffic loads.  

Tsui go on and reviews the new model’s autonomous parking capabilities, and says he never encountered such superior capabilities. Although the BMW 7 series vehicles are fairly large, the orientation and maneuvering capabilities allow the car to park even in challenging parking spots. In addition, it is possible to program a route in advance, so the car will automatically navigate, for example, from the gate through the driveway and park itself in the garage. This function can be performed even when the driver is outside the car. “This could very well become among the best in the business, a more-than-worthy competitor to GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot”. 

Innoviz Introduced a New Category of HD LiDAR Sensor

Tel Aviv-based Innoviz Technologies, announced Innoviz360 – a new HD LiDAR architecture that provides 10 times resolution compared with current automotive LiDAR sensors. Unlike traditional spinner solutions that are performance limited with only up to 128 scanning lines, the new, lightweight, Innoviz360 LiDAR allows multiple scanning software configurations with up to 1280 scanning lines (10x) at a cost-effective price.

Innoviz360’s wide FoV (360 ° x64 ° ) and reduced cost targets the markets of  L4-L5 automotive applications, such as robotaxis, shuttles and trucks, and other applications beyond the automotive space. Innoviz expects samples of its Innoviz 360 HD LiDAR to be available in Q4 2022. “New innovations such as the Innoviz360 running on our open and scalable DRIVE platform can help the industry achieve truly autonomous transportation , ” said Gary Hicok, Senior VP of Engineering at NVIDIA.

Innoviz Co-Founder and CEO, Omer Keilaf, said: “The new architecture breaks through the performance and cost limitations of traditional and standard-resolution 360 spinners”. The new product complements InnovizOne and InnovizTwo, front looking LiDARs that are targeting high level of automation and are optimized for passenger vehicles (L2-L3). Innoviz360 is expected to generate revenues starting in 2023. It adds new total addressable market (TAM) for non-automotive applications of approximately $20B by 2030, in addition to $55B TAM for automotive applications.

 

Obayashi selects Innoviz’s LiDAR for autonomous tower crane

Obayashi, one of the largest Japanese construction companies, choose Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor for a semi-autonomous tower crane in develops. Obayashi intends to deploy the final system in various construction sites throughout Japan. This development is part of a larger Obayashi program to develop autonomous construction tools to be widely used in construction projects. The cooperation between the two companies started at 2018. 

The autonomous operation of the tower crane will be based on integration between the high performance capabilities of the LiDAR sensor and Obayashi’s software. The sensor generates 3D pictures and identifies of people and equipment in construction sites, based on measuring returns of multiple reflections per pixel. Obayashi’s software extracts the data from the sensor, and generates alerts and instructions for the crane’s operator. This joint solution makes operations highly automatic and enhances safety.  

Construction world became a place where we evidence greater processes of adopting autonomous technologies, mainly because construction sites are usually closed and delimited, and the tools in use require performing predefined structured processes. According to a ResearchAndMarkets report, the autonomous construction equipment market is expected to grow to $26.8 billion by 2030. This growth is mainly due to construction boom we witness in many countries, the shortage in professional HR and the increasing demand for higher safety levels in the construction processes.     

Obayashi is one of the largest construction companies in Japan, with $11.8 billion revenue in FY2021. A year ago, the company announced a new cooperation with the American SafeAI Company, a developer of a platform for autonomously operating heavy duty tools. The main goal of this cooperation is to develop a whole ecosystem for an “Autonomous Construction Site”. Together, both companies ran a pilot in a construction site at the Silicon Valley, where they demonstrated disposal of construction waste using an autonomous truck. The truck was a standard Caterpillar truck which was converted to operate autonomously using SafeAI’s platform.

Innoviz targets a business model of Direct Tier-1 Supplier

Above: Omer Keilaf, CEO and co-founder of Innoviz

Innoviz Technologies is building a new business model aimed to position itself as a Direct Tier-1 Supplier of its LiDAR InnovizTwo solution for car manufacturers. The company has developed a solid-state LiDAR technology which was selected by BMW for its fully autonomous car program and for its consumer vehicles. The InnovizOne LiDAR product has also been selected by a leading European Tier 1 automotive company for its shuttle program.

“Innoviz successfully completed an extensive, 12-month Tier 1 supplier audit process conducted by one of the largest car makers in the world, said Omer Keilaf, CEO and co-founder of Innoviz. of Innoviz. “Innoviz is now recognized as a direct supplier as part of the final stage of consideration for a nomination for a L2/L3 program. If received, this recognition would mark an important milestone in our progress.”

During the earnings call following Q3 2021 report, Keilaf explained that working as a Tier-1 supplier will keep the company closer to the car manufacturers, bring bigger deals and reduce the total cost of the systems for the car OEMs. The new business model will be flexible one – and will allow car manufacturers to decide themselves weather they prefer Innoviz to be a Tier-1 or a Tier-2 supplier working with their current Tier-1 suppliers.

Innoviz LiDAR sensor
Innoviz LiDAR sensor

Last week NVIDIA completed the integration of Innoviz Perception Platform with NVIDIA’s DRIVE AGX autonomous vehicle development platform. Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor is also integrated with the NVIDIA DRIVE Sim. This move brings the company into the NVIDIA DRIVE ecosystem. According to Keilaf, most of the American and European car companies are working with NVIDIA platform.

lately it was also selected by JueFX for its Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) solution to improve road safety and traffic alerts for autonomous vehicles in China. JueFX will install Innoviz’s high-performance, solid-state LiDAR on smart city infrastructure and leverage its annotated data to monitor traffic in real time and to send alerts to autonomous vehicles.

Mass production is expected to start in 2023. Meanwhile, the revenues for Q3 2021 were $2.1 million. Innoviz management reaffirmed its forward-looking order book guidance of $2.4 billion, representing the cumulative projected future sales of hardware and perception software through 2030. Innoviz currently has 56 prospective customers in the late stages of technical evaluation.

“Nine are in the RFQ or final commercial negotiations stage. They represent more than $3.4 billion in future potential order book volume. Innoviz expects some of these projects to materialize into contractual relationships by mid-2022.”

Innoviz enters Nasdaq with Equity Value of $1.4 Billion

Above: Innoviz’ CEO Omer Keilaf (middle), CBO Oren Rosenzweig (left) and Chief R&D Officer Oren Buskila

Making business with automotive Tier-1 companies is more than providing superb technology – it’s also about financial strenth and stability. This is why Tel aviv-based Innoviz Technologies have dicided to go public. This week it announced a definitive agreement to merge with Collective Growth (NASDAQ: CGRO) to become a public traded company with an estimated equity value of approximately $1.4 billion, that will be listed on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “INVZ”.

Founded in 2016, Innoviz, alongside its mobility tech partner Magna International, was the first to bring a high-end solid-state LiDAR sensor that meets the performance and price requirements of automotive OEMs, robotaxi companies and Tier 1 suppliers. The merger transaction is expected to provide up to $350 million in gross proceeds comprised of Collective Growth’s $150 million of cash held in trust, and $200 million from a fully committed ordinary share PIPE at $10.00 per share, including strategic investments from Magna International, Antara Capital, Phoenix Insurance and other institutional investors.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both Innoviz and Collective Growth. It is targeted to close in the first quarter of 2021. Following completion of the transaction, Innoviz will retain its experienced management team. Founder Omer Keilaf will continue to serve as CEO. The Company has grown rapidly, raising $251 million to date and expanding to over 280 employees globally.

InnovizTwo solid-state automotive-grade LiDAR sensor
InnovizTwo solid-state automotive-grade LiDAR sensor

Innoviz’s solid-state LiDAR sensors and perception software are built and priced for mass produced consumer autonomous vehicles, a market that accounts for approximately two thirds of the total addressable market for LiDAR in the near term. In addition to Magna International, It has established several partnerships with other world leading Tier-1 automotive suppliers, such as HARMAN, Aptiv and HiRain, which is active in China.

BMW adopts Innoviz LiDAR Sensor

Omer Keilaf, Innoviz CEO said: “Innoviz continues to push the boundaries of LiDAR performance and price. Our engineers, along with our partner Magna International, have been working tirelessly to bring a solution that automakers can adopt at scale and trust to perform safely and reliably. The public listing is a major step on our path to becoming one of the dominant players in the global autonomous driving industry.”

In October 2020, Innoviz had launched InnovizTwo – its next generation of its solid-state automotive-grade LiDAR sensor. The company declined to provide any technical details but said the new sensor provides a major cost reduction design of over 70% compared to InnovizOne, along with significant performance improvement. Samples of InnovizTwo will be available in Q3 2021, with full production expected to begin in 2022.

The first generation LiDAR sensor, InnovizOne, was chosen by BMW (throgh Magna International) for its upcoming autonomous vehicle production platforms. It is expected that it will be installed in BMW’s electric SUV iNEXT, planned to go to the market in late 2021 or in the begininig of 2022. This  905 nm laser wavelength sensor provides detection range of 20cm to 600m with accuracy of 3cm, field of view (HxV) of 73°x20° and frame rate of 10 FPS.