German sports car manufacturer Porsche was part of a $19 million Series A round of investment in Israeli startup TriEye. TriEye promises to improve visibility of autonomous vehicles when they are cruising through low visibility conditions like adverse weather or a dark environment.
About 80 percent of severe road accidents happen in low visibility conditions, which TriEye believes it can tackle through its semiconductor design that makes low-cost short-wave-infrared (SWIR) sensing technology possible at economies of scale. The solution fuses semiconductor technology with deep learning and uses artificial intelligence to precisely locate and identify driving environments.
“The company’s CMOS-based [complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor] Raven camera, whose initial samples are due to launch in 2020, is designed to save lives on the roads. Once integrated, the camera will allow advanced driver-assistance systems [ADAS] and autonomous vehicles [AV] to achieve unprecedented vision capabilities under common adverse weather and low-light conditions such as fog, dust or night-time,” said TriEye in a statement.
The commercial realization of fully AVs hinges precariously on the ability of the stakeholders to get the technology behind it right and at a price point that is reasonable enough for an above-average consumer, at the very least. Though all the billions of dollars funnelled into the industry can be expected to yield returns on the technology front over the next decade, the market is yet to solve for affordability – which in many ways, will make or break the industry.
It is here where TriEye’s vision technology could have greater relevance, as Porsche believes these SWIR cameras can be manufactured at a “fraction of their current cost.” That said, Porsche has maintained that it will not look to go beyond semi-autonomous vehicles, and will be happy to sit back and view the race towards Level 5 autonomy. This is in line with its idea of a sports car, which is meant for drivers who enjoy driving and not quite intended to be chauffeured around autonomously.
Porsche has explained that the semi-autonomous technology it pursues will allow drivers to handle the car when they take the vehicle out to the country roads and highways, while allowing the self-driving technology to take the wheel when there is a need to navigate traffic-prone streets.
Porsche Ventures, the investment arm of Porsche, looks to strategically invest in business models related to customer experience, mobility and digital lifestyle, and typically funds early and growth-stage startups. TriEye was founded in 2017, based on a decade of advanced nanophotonics research carried out at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University by one of the founders.
Michael Steiner, member of the executive board for research and development at Porsche, considers TriEye to have great potential within the sensor technology space, which “paves the way for the next generation of driver assistance systems and autonomous driving functions.” Steiner pointed out that SWIR could be a key element in the development of self-driving technology as it can offer enhanced safety at a competitive price.
“Our mission is to save lives and reduce risks of accidents in all weather and lighting conditions,” said Avi Bakal, CEO and co-founder of TriEye. “The expansion of our Series A round and the addition of Porsche as a strategic investor further proves that SWIR is a critical component in the necessary sensor fusion solution to enable safer and better ADAS and AV.”