Israeli depth sensor co Oryx Vision raises $17m

Google car Photo: Reuters

The Petah Tikva based startup has developed nano antennas that receive light waves that act as depth sensors for autonomous cars.

Startup Oryx Vision has emerged from stealth with a veteran Israeli high-tech team building a radically different depth sensing solution that will serve as the eyes for autonomous vehicles. 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.

Based on nano antennas that receive light waves like radio waves, 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 Petah Tikva based company has already demonstrated the technology and discussed its implementation with some of the world's leading car manufacturers and Tier-1 suppliers.

Oryx cofounder and CEO Rani Wellingstein said,"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."

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, 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.

"Oryx has taken what theoretical physics taught us about the unique properties of light and turned it into a practical piece of technology that solves a major problem in one of the most exciting markets of the future," said Fisher. "We believe that the company's depth sensors will be critical components in many autonomous vehicles."

Strict Depth Sensing Requirements

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, LiDAR is mechanically complicated, prohibitively expensive (costing thousands to tens of thousands of dollars) and has a severe range limit due to eye-safety considerations.

Oryx addresses all these limitations with a depth sensing system that 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.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 19, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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Google car Photo: Reuters
Google car Photo: Reuters
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