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Oryx Vision raises $17M to create novel depth-sensing solution for autonomous vehicles; LiDAR replacement

Oryx Vision has emerged from stealth with a veteran team from the Israeli high-tech industry to build a novel depth-sensing solution for autonomous vehicles that overcomes some of the limitations of current LiDAR systems. Oryx has raised $17 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP), with additional participation from Maniv Mobility and Trucks VC. BVP Partner Adam Fisher will join Oryx’s board of directors.

In order to drive accurately and safely, autonomous vehicles need a highly detailed 3D view of their environment. Existing depth-sensing solutions rely mostly on LiDAR devices, which send short laser pulses while rotating, receive the reflected light back with photo-electric sensors, and thus construct a 3D map of the car’s surroundings, pixel by pixel. However, current LiDAR is mechanically complicated, expensive and has a severe range limit due to eye-safety considerations, Oryx says.

(LiDAR companies such as Quanergy are also addressing some of these limitations by developing solid-state LiDAR systems. Earlier post.)

Oryx says that it is addressing all these limitations. Its depth sensing system—based on nano antennas that receive light waves like radio waves—sends completely safe light pulses at the long wave infrared spectrum. Instead of rotating mechanically, it illuminates the entire scene at once and uses an array of tiny antennas to receive the returning light waves.

These nano antennas, which are only 5/1000th of a millimeter in diameter, are at the heart of Oryx’s innovation. They are implemented in thin-film silicon, slashing the cost of automotive depth sensing solutions by an order of magnitude.

The Oryx depth sensor is poised to achieve a range of 150 meters and mega-pixel resolution, 50x better performance than LiDAR. With a much clearer view, the autonomous vehicle’s computer will require simpler algorithms and less processing power to make the right driving decisions. Unlike LiDAR, the Oryx system will operate in direct sunlight and severe weather conditions. Its design also has no moving parts, resulting in greater reliability and durability.

Oryx’s depth-sensing solution seeks to be the first to meet the demanding depth sensing requirements of autonomous vehicles at a mass market price point. The company has already demonstrated the technology and discusses its implementation with some of the world’s leading car manufacturers and Tier-1 suppliers.

Autonomous vehicles need much more powerful depth sensing capabilities than what was originally thought; existing technologies simply cannot deliver them. We have taken a completely different approach to artificial depth sensing and managed to create a solution that will truly enable autonomous driving.

—,Rani Wellingstein, Oryx co-founder and CEO

Oryx was founded in 2009 by David Ben-Bassat, a world expert in electro-optics, who previously founded RFWaves and sold it to Vishay. Ben-Bassat, who bootstrapped the company raising less than $300,000 from Angel investors over the years, was joined by Wellingstein, a seasoned entrepreneur who sold his previous company Intucell to Cisco in 2013. The company will use the new funds to accelerate its expansion, and is currently recruiting physicists, electrical engineers and computer scientists.

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