Hillel's Tech Corner: Innoviz: Perception software for autonomous cars

Following the expected closing of the transaction in the first quarter of 2021, Innoviz is expected to have an estimated equity value of approximately $1.4 billion.

Innovitz (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 A few weeks ago, I had a career defining moment. Well, to be accurate, it was more like a career defining morning. Here is what happened.
Over the years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet the people behind almost all Israeli success stories in the tech sector. The founder of Waze, Wix, Checkpoint, and so many others. There was one name I was really looking to connect with, but couldn’t figure out how: Amnon Shashua, the founder of Mobileye, Orcam, the first digital bank, and several other ventures.
In case you don’t remember, Mobileye was acquired by Intel for more than $15 billion and Orcam is worth several billion as well. Prof. Shashua is kind of a big deal.
Well, a few months ago, he followed me on Twitter. We began to speak and we set a time for me to go over to his house and experience the fully autonomous Mobileye car. After a few cancellations and rescheduling, the meeting finally took place a few weeks ago and it was even better than expected.
We “drove” from his house in Mevaseret all the way to Mobileye HQ in Jerusalem without him touching the steering wheel or the gas pedal once, Israeli traffic and all. It was truly mind-blowing.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nothing demonstrates how far we’ve come technologically more than autonomous cars. You truly feel like you’re in the future when riding in an autonomous car.
After the ride, the Mobileye team showed me some of their technology including their cars and their LiDAR/Radar technologies.
It was quite the morning.
When it comes to the autonomous car space, one of the most interesting companies out there is Innoviz.
Innoviz is a leading provider of high-performance, solid-state, LiDAR sensors and perception software that enable the mass production of autonomous vehicles.
LiDAR is a critical component of autonomous vehicles that enable sight in conditions in which cameras fall short, including tough weather conditions, when light changes quickly (such as when entering a tunnel), or even plain night time.
Innoviz’s perception software enables autonomous vehicles to categorize what they are seeing to react accordingly. This technology utilizes its proprietary AI to analyze the point cloud, as well as accurately detect and classify objects, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians and more.
Innoviz is the LiDAR company BMW has selected for its autonomous vehicle program; the companies are on track to be first in the world to deploy LiDAR in consumer vehicles on the roads.
Innoviz also has unique and unparalleled experience with leadership from Unit 81, the most elite technology development unit in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Omer Keilaf, Innoviz’s CEO, has more than 21 years of experience driving cutting-edge tech from inception to commercialization.
INNOVIZ’S LIDAR is compact and its cost per unit is in the hundreds of US dollars. There isn’t a single automotive-grade LiDAR company quoting a lower price per unit.
As for the business side, Innoviz is in the process of going public. It is doing so through a business combination with Collective Growth Corporation (CGRO), a special purpose acquisition company, also known as a “SPAC.”
Following the expected closing of the transaction in the first quarter of 2021, Innoviz is expected to have an estimated equity value of approximately $1.4 billion.
This IPO positions Innoviz to capitalize on significant growth opportunities, expand its product roadmap and offers investors a unique opportunity to invest in the future of autonomous driving.
Innoviz is backed by top-tier strategic partners and investors, including SoftBank Ventures Asia, Samsung, Magna International, Aptiv, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Ventures, 360 Capital Partners, Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services, Champel Capital, Phoenix Insurance Company and others. The company has raised north of $250 million in venture capital money.
When it comes to autonomous driving, there are differing opinions as to when it’ll become mainstream. I had the chance to speak to one of the smartest people in tech, Benedict Evans, a few years back about this very question. He was of the opinion that we are at least a decade away from seeing most cars on the road drive themselves.
Shashua did not disagree with Benedict and he claimed that by 2030, a significant percentage of the cars will be autonomous.
Of course, there is already autonomous technology on the roads today with Tesla leading the way. However, even my Volvo has Pilot Assist, which lets me drive without touching the gas or brake or controlling the steering wheel. All I have to do is touch the steering wheel every half a minute so the car knows I’m not asleep. My car also parks itself. While this is not the vision for full autonomy, it really is remarkable to watch the car drive itself.
For autonomous cars to really go mainstream, the technology has to be incredibly solid and reliable. Innoviz is leading the way with its bleeding edge LiDAR technology.
Let’s not forget the ethical challenges associated with autonomous cars. If, for example, your car is about to hit a person and making a sharp turn will save the person but kill a cat, a person knows how to make that call. A machine doesn’t.
When it comes to ideal driving conditions, cameras are enough, as long as they cover all directions and leave no blind spots. But when conditions are not optimal, that’s when LiDAR comes in and shines.
Innoviz’s technology is market-leading and will surely find itself into many of our cars in the near future.
Unlike other sectors, the ability to innovate and perfect your product, when it comes to self driving cars, is truly a matter of life and death. Innoviz is positioned to save millions of lives while increasing the convenience of true fully autonomous vehicles.
I, for one, cannot wait to let my car drive itself while I get work done on my daily commute to Tel Aviv.