Why Naver invested in Israeli autonomous driving startup Innoviz Technologies

Naver announced that it jointly invested USD 65 million, with a global IT company, into an Israeli company called Innoviz Technologies, which is developing LiDAR, the core technology for autonomous navigation.

LiDAR acts as eyes for autonomous vehicles. Unlike radar, which uses radio waves, LiDAR is a sensor that accurately measures the position and distance of an object using a laser with strong linearity. By collecting 3D data it enables people to recognize and detect the environment in real time within a few tens of meters, and it also provides information about obstacles and calculates the distance of vehicles nearby.

Founded in 2016 by developers who worked under the Ministry of Defense, Innoviz Technologies uses its own patents to secure technology that allows its machines to detect and identify the environment around vehicles regardless of changes in light and weather conditions. They are also developing technology to identify objects using algorithms based on deep learning technology.

Innoviz Technologies will be launching the InnovizPro™ LiDAR in the first quarter of 2018, and the InnovizOne™ model, which deals with the 3rd and 4th stages of autonomous driving, is set to be launched in 2019.

According to the market research agency, Strategy Analytics, the market size of LiDAR is expected to grow by more than 61% per annum, from USD 300 million in 2016 to USD 3.3 billion in 2021. As interest in LiDAR grows, there is a surge of investments being made into companies developing similar technology.

Velodyne, the world’s No.1 LiDAR development company, recently received USD 150 million from Ford Motor Co. and Baidu. Also, Quanergy Systems has thus far received a cumulative investment amount of USD 135 million.

The LiDAR industry has succeeded in lowering the price of LiDAR from its initial USD 80,000 to one tenth of that price through large-scale investment that allowed them to lower prices and downsize the product for use by the general public.

Innoviz Technologies claims that it can lower the price of LiDAR to USD 100 per piece, while providing information on the vehicle’s surroundings through further technological development.

In order to make this happen, Innoviz Technologies has entered into a strategic partnership with Naver and other global electronic companies like Delphi Automotive and Magna International.

Through this strategic investment, Naver has not only partnered with the key technology for autonomous vehicles, it will also help them to strengthen technological competitiveness in the field of autonomous navigation cars. In addition, it expects synergy with NaverLabs Europe (formerly, Xerox Research Center Europe), the AI research lab that Naver acquired.

Chang-Hyun Song, CTO of Naver and CEO of NaverLabs, stated, “In order to secure the core technologies of autonomous navigation, Naver is focusing on automobile, IT, and electronics industries. In the future, we will expand our strategic investment and technical cooperation with technology companies in the autonomous field”.
Furthermore, NaverLabs is testing its autonomous driving cars on the road after they received the first domestic provisional permission last February from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.

(Top photo from Platum)

This article, entitled “Autonomous driving startup Innoviz Technologies receives USD 65M from Naver”, was written in Korean by Chloe Lee of Platum, edited by AllTechAsia.

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