Lidar Developer Robosense is Reportedly Set to Close on a $379 Million Funding Round, the Largest Single Investment in the Nascent Industry
Lidar developer Robosense, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and is one of the country's leading suppliers of the technology for autonomous vehicles, has reportedly secured the largest single investment in the lidar industry, Chinese media outlet Gasgoo reported on Friday.
According to Gasgoo, the funding round possibly exceeded RMB2.4 billion ($379.3 million). The size of the investment would surpass the $370 million investment in Hesai Technology's Series most recent D round in Nov 2021, according to sources close to RoboSense. The funding round was led by China's smartphone giant Xiaomi.
Robosense also received a RMB 300 million ($45 million) in Oct 2018, which at the time was also the largest single investment in a lidar company.
Gasgoo reported that the funding came from "nearly half of China's auto industry", including BYD, SAIC Motor, BAIC Group and other auto startups.
The term "lidar" is an acronym for "light detection and ranging." Lidar sensors work by sending out pulses of laser light and measuring the time it takes the laser beams to reflect back off objects. The light reflected back is used to create a 3D rendering of the environment around a vehicle, including identifying pedestrians, other vehicles and infrastructure.
The images produced by lidar sensors act as the "eyes" of a self-driving vehicle. For automotive applications, lidar is combined with cameras, radar and perception software. It's also a vital sensor to support new safety features such as automotive emergency braking (AEB) and automated cruise control, which are offered in many new vehicles today.
As advanced driver assist systems and Level-2 autonomous driving technology become standard on many new vehicles, there is a growing demand for lidar technology from automakers for level-2 and higher autonomous driving systems.
Automakers around the world are forming partnerships with leading lidar developers, including Cepton, Luminar, AEye and Velodyne on high volume supply deals for low-cost automotive-grade lidar sensors that can be installed in a vehicle during production.
Luminar, Cepton and Veledyne have launched IPOs in SPAC mergers in order to raise capital from investors on Wall Street.
IHS Markit predicts that global sales of self-driving vehicles will reach 21 million vehicles by 2035, up from nearly 600,000 vehicles in 2025. IHS believes that by 2035, nearly 76 million vehicles with some level of autonomous driving capabilities will be sold globally.
The market for lidar in automotive and industrial applications is expected to reach US$5.7 billion in 2026.
Robosense was founded in 2014. The company developed a lidar sensor that it says provides a higher level of performance and reliability with lower costs for autonomous vehicles.
The company was named a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree for its "RS-IPLS Intelligent Perception LiDAR System".
The RS-IPLS lidar system was one of the first hardware and software algorithm-based solutions created for the mass-production for use in the automotive industry for autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS). The system features what the company calls "Gaze Technology", which features real-time data pre-processing and a "gaze" function similar to human eyes using lidar combined with deep-learning.
In April 2021, RoboSense was named as one of the finalists in the 2021 Automotive News PACE Awards for its mass-production-ready and automotive-grade solid-state RS-LiDAR-M1 sensor.
In addition to its Shenzhen headquarters, Robosense has 4 other global branches, including in Silicon Valley and Stuttgart, Germany. As of 2020, the company developed more than 600 patents globally related to lidar technology.
The company's product lineup includes lidar solutions for autonomous passenger cars, commercial vehicles, automated logistics vehicles, industrial robots, robotaxis and new smart transportation infrastructure.
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