Blackmore Sensors and Analytics raises $18 million from BMW i Ventures and Toyota AI Ventures to scale its automotive LIDAR solution
Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is the most important and expensive component of any autonomous vehicle. It is a sensor that detects objects in a car’s proximity using lasers. Not so long ago a LiDAR sensor used to cost $75,000. With advances in technology the price has come down by 90% to just $7,500. The price is expected to fall even lower. One startup is contributing to the advancement in LIDAR technology is Blackmore Sensors and Analytics. The company develops frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar imaging and its supporting analytic tools software. The Bozeman, Montana-based startup develops LIDAR engines for defense customers. Blackmore’s core technology brings the advanced toolsets of modern radar into the optical domain enabling a new era of unprecedented lidar system performance. Blackmore’s technology is ideal for a variety of intense, mission critical, automotive, military, and industrial environments, where cost and performance specifications limit more traditional sensors.
To scale its automotive LIDAR solution, the company announced in a company release today that it has raised $18 Million Series B financing round BMW i Ventures with participation from Toyota AI Ventures, Millennium Technology Value Partners and Next Frontier Capital. Founded in 2016, the company specializes in 3D Printing, 3D Technology, Consumer Electronics and Robotics. Blackmore will use the investment to scale the production of its FMCW lidar sensor for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and self-driving markets. Increased production capacity will allow Blackmore to support the growing sector of autonomous driving teams demanding a superior lidar solution.
Advances in new sensor technologies, like lidar, are going to make cars safer and, eventually, autonomous,” said BMW i Ventures partner Zach Barasz. “Blackmore has unique and innovative FMCW lidar technology that delivers a new dimension of data to future vehicles.” Low-cost lidar sensors are required to enable self-driving vehicles. In addition to being more cost-effective, Blackmore’s FMCW lidar technology has several competitive advantages over traditional pulsed lidar systems, enabling autonomous driving teams to achieve their goals faster.
“Perception is critical to the perception-prediction-planning automated driving stack, and we’re excited to see the innovations that Blackmore is bringing to the top of this stack,” said Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures. “Blackmore’s groundbreaking FMCW lidar technology is designed to eliminate interference, improve long-range performance, and support both range and velocity — a triple threat to make autonomous driving safer.”
According to Dr. Randy Reibel, Blackmore’s CEO, it is that last capability that differentiates Blackmore’s sensor from its competitors. “Having the ability to measure both the speed and the distance to any object gives self-driving systems more information to navigate safely,” said Reibel. “Blackmore provides software and analytics so that its customers can get the most out of the FMCW lidar sensors.”
BMW i Ventures, BMW’s EUR 500 Mio million venture capital fund, invests money and resources in startups in the fields of autonomous driving, digital car and automotive cloud, e-mobility, artificial intelligence and data, industry 4.0, shared and on-demand mobility, customer digital life, and energy services. The firm has already partnered with innovative companies such as Carbon3D, Chargepoint, DesktopMetal, JustPark, Life360, Moovit, Nauto, Scoop, Stratim, Turo, Xometry and Zendrive. BMW i Ventures invests in all stages from seed and incubation to growth companies.