Automotive HUD Startup WayRay Raises $80M in Series C Funding
Automotive heads-up displays (HUDs) are capable of turning windshields into interactive panels. The technology also makes driving safer, by projecting smartphone apps and real-time driving data on a visible surface. With a reliable HUD, drivers don't have to keep looking down or shift their eyes away from the road, when viewing directions and reading messages on a handheld device.
WayRay, a startup with headquarters in Switzerland and offices in the US, China and Russia, acknowledges the benefits of HUDs and wants to take the units to the next level. At the moment, existing HUDs available on the market today only utilize a small projection area. To extend the capabilities of HUDs, the company's solution is to turn the entire windshield into a giant virtual lens.
Series C Round
The startup's innovative product has attracted numerous high-profile investors and venture capital firms. During a recently completed Series C Round, which was led by Porsche and Hyundai Motor, WayRay successfully raised $80 million (valuation of $500 million).
Other notable investors include the following: Alibaba Group, China Merchants Capital, JVCKENWOOD and Consortium of Sovereign Wealth Funds. To date, the startup has raised more than $100 million.
"WayRay has remarkable expertise in both hardware and software development for holographic AR display systems," said Dr. Youngcho Chi, Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President of Hyundai Motor Group.
"The Hyundai–WayRay collaboration will help us establish a brand new eco-system that harnesses AR technology to enhance not only navigation systems but establish an AR platform for smart cities and smart buildings."
WayRay plans to use the newly acquired funds to boost research and development efforts. Furthermore, it will work with automakers on testing its prototypes. The startup is also considering the creation of AR displays for homes and office spaces. Such applications will likely replace conventional windows with holographic panels.
In the automotive HUD market, the company is competing against a handful of well-established brands and startups, such as Panasonic, Continental and Navdy. Earlier this year, it showcased its work in a pilot project with Porsche. The demonstration took place during Startup Autobahn 2018, where it won the People's Choice Award.
No Aftermarket, No Problem
The startup's HUD is designed to be built directly into cars during production. WayRay believes this approach could be more profitable, compared to selling its product via aftermarket channels, where competition can sometimes be overwhelming – especially for mainstream automotive products. The company, which launched in 2012, will instead cater to OEM channels, where competition for HUDs is less.
"A growing number of projects with carmakers and strong investors are fueling the company's growth and boosting our confidence in implementing complex innovations," cited Vitaly Ponomarev, CEO of WayRay.
WayRay's HUD incorporates hints of AR technology to boost visuals and safety. For instance, the unit is capable of tracking pedestrians crossing at intersections. It can also highlight certain obstructions and markings on the road to ensure detection. Going beyond road safety, the startup's AR interface could be useful for training race car drivers in closed tracks.
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