By Alexandria Sage
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Two makers of laser-based sensor technology announced new funding rounds on Thursday, with top automotive suppliers Delphi Automotive, Magna International and Magneti Marelli investing in the competitive technology considered key to self-driving cars.
Israel's Innoviz Technologies announced a $65 million funding round, joined by Delphi and Magna, and Canada's LeddarTech said its $101 million funding round included Delphi and Magneti Marelli.
Lidar, which relies on light pulses reflected off objects to gauge their position on and near the road, is seen by most automotive experts as one of the crucial elements for full self-driving cars and has become a prime focus.
The investment by the suppliers underscores their need to identify self-driving solutions for global automakers. Such tier-one suppliers serve as systems integrators, responsible for vetting devices and technologies that they integrate into automobiles.
The cost, complexity and accelerated pace of development of self-driving vehicles are fueling sweeping alliances between automobile manufacturers and suppliers, and suppliers and makers of specific technologies, such as Lidar.
Innoviz's Series B funding round comes as the firm prepares for the 2019 debut of its automotive grade solid-state Lidar device, InnovizOne, for full and partial self-driving systems.
Delphi and Magna will offer Innoviz's technology to the automakers it supplies, Oren Rosenzweig, co-founder and chief business officer of Innoviz, told Reuters.
The company also plans to mass produce its Lidar platform for testing and development available in the first quarter of 2018.
LeddarTech's Series C funding round was led by German lighting company Osram and will be used to accelerate Lidar development with suppliers, the company said.
Over a dozen companies, from early entrant Velodyne to companies like Quanergy Systems and start-up Luminar, are vying to lower the price of Lidar and improve its performance to meet real-world needs beyond its current use in development of self-driving cars.
"When we started out we thought the biggest issue was price," said Rosenzweig. "We're working on getting the price down significantly compared to what you have today, but we have to make the performance much higher."
He estimated that Innoviz's first Lidar will be priced "in the hundreds" of dollars.
Comparing Lidar companies is difficult due to the variations in technology and the lack of standards in judging performance.
Delphi announced last month that it had acquired a minority stake in Innoviz.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Tom Brown and Dan Grebler)