Israeli Hi-Tech Success in Driverless Cars: BMW Selects Intel Startup
A significant deal for Israeli startup Innoviz: the company, which develops LiDAR sensors for the automotive industry, signed an agreement with German automaker BMW to install its product in autonomous vehicles starting with model year 2021. The deal represents one of the first in which a leading carmaker will install LiDAR sensors for purposes of autonomous capability.
Israeli startup Innoviz was established in early 2016 by four partners who previously served together in Unit 81, the technology arm of the IDF Intelligence Corps. Soon the quartet was joined by venture capitalist Zohar Zispal, who now chairs the board of directors. Over the last 2.5 years the firm has raised approximately $80M, a large sum relative to the short span the company has been on the road. It employs about 150 workers.
Innoviz’s LiDAR product competes with several others internationally, among them Israeli company Oryx. The technology anables scanning at a distance, and provides a real-time picture of the vehicle’s environment. LiDAR, one of the auto industry’s hottest current terms, is based on technology that scans the car’s surroundings with laser pulses and identifying objects by the reflected signals. LiDAR’s advantages, according to industry figures, lies in its ability to operate even in variable or inclement weather.
Innoviz declined to specify the number of models in which their product will be installed, but it can be estimated that as a first step, as customary in the auto industry, the number will be limited. Nevertheless, the selection of Innoviz’s LiDAR represents a validation of the company’s product in a competitive market. Fast-growing Innoviz thus takes on the challenge of meeting the car manufacturer’s timetables.
Company representatives voiced satisfaction: “BMW examined various LiDAR solutions and in the end chose Israeli Innoviz, after a long and exacting process, and after our company’s technological solution met the high safety, reliability, and performance levels [BMW] had set,” an Innoviz message read.
Omer Kilaf, company president, remarked, “BMW is setting clear guidelines for the entire industry when it comes to safety, reliability, and performance levels in self-driving cars, and their selection of Innoviz is an unequivocal expression of confidence in our technological abilities".
Dr. Anat Bonstein, head of the National Alternative Fuels and Smart Transportation Program at the Office of the Prime Minister, added, “This instance illustrates the central role of Israeli companies in the fascinating automotive and transportation world. The fact that a manufacturer such as BMW is putting this technology in its mass-production in essence dictates to the rest of the industry the timing and supporting technology standards for driverless cars".
Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz also commented on the deal. “Israel stands at the spearhead of everything connected to automotive tech. The technology is progressing by leaps and bounds, and we are obligated to facilitate that by regulatory means so that it can be implemented as soon as possible.”