Who will win the self-driving race? Here are eight possibilities

black German car drives through a modern tunnel

Enlarge (credit: Emanuel M Schwermer)

The self-driving technology industry is in a strange state right now. A number of companies have been pouring millions of dollars into self-driving technology for years, and many of them have prototype self-driving vehicles that seem to work.

Yet I know of only one company—Waymo—that has launched a fully driverless commercial taxi service. And I only know of one company—Nuro—that’s running a driverless commercial delivery service on public roads. You’d expect these companies to be capitalizing on their early leads by expanding rapidly, but neither seems to be doing that.

Meanwhile, several other players, including Cruise and Mobileye, say they’re planning to launch large-scale commercial services by 2023. But plenty of self-driving companies have blown past self-imposed launch deadlines in the past, so it’s not clear if that will actually happen.

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#argo, #cars, #cruise, #features, #mobileye, #nuro, #self-driving-cars, #tesla, #waymo

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This is Intel’s plan to dominate driverless car technology

A Udelv-branded van roams wet streets at night.

Enlarge / Udelv hasn’t announced details about its forthcoming Mobileye-powered delivery robots—such as who will help Udelv build them—but they are expected to look something like this. (credit: Udelv)

I’ve written before that Mobileye, an Intel subsidiary since 2017, is among the most formidable and underrated players in the self-driving sector. The Israeli company is the leading supplier of the chips, cameras, and software that power today’s driver-assistance systems—a couple of years ago, Mobileye claimed 70 percent market share. The company is hoping to enjoy a similarly dominant position in the emerging market for fully self-driving systems.

On Monday, Mobileye announced that its self-driving technology stack would be branded Mobileye Drive. Mobileye says the technology will be “a turn-key self-driving system ready for commercial deployment at scale.” A Mobileye Drive system will have 13 cameras, three long-range lidars, six short-wave lidars, and six radars. It will be powered by Mobileye’s EyeQ 5 processors.

(credit: Mobileye)

Mobileye says the technology will be ready for commercial use by 2023. That would be a big deal if true, but I can’t help being skeptical. Over the last five years, a number of major self-driving companies have announced optimistic launch dates and failed to meet them.

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#intel, #mobileye, #policy, #udelv

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ntel’s Mobileye teams with Udelv to launch 35,000 driverless delivery vehicles by 2028

Intel subsidiary Mobileye is ratcheting up its autonomous vehicle ambitions and getting into delivery.

The company said Monday it struck a deal with Udelv to supply its self-driving system to thousands of purpose-built autonomous delivery vehicles. The companies said they plan to put more than 35,000 autonomous vehicles dubbed Transporters on city streets by 2028. Commercial operations are slated to begin in 2023.

Donlen, a U.S. commercial fleet leasing and management company, has made the first pre-order for 1,000 of these Udelv Transporters.

The announcement is notable for both companies. Udelv, which initially launched as an autonomous vehicle delivery startup, has opted to adopt Mobileye’s self-driving system and focus on “creating the hardware and software that allows for autonomous deliveries,” its CEO Daniel Laury said in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.

“This is a hardcore engineering problem to solve when one understands the multiplicity of goods to deliver, the variety of ways to do it, and some other intricately complex issues linked to the automation of last and middle mile deliveries,” Laury said. “By partnering with Mobileye, Udelv can focus 100% of its resources and efforts to perfecting the business application while Mobileye provides the tool to scale fast. It is a win-win situation.”

For Mobilieye it marks yet another expansion for a company that got its start as a developer of camera-based sensors, which are now used by most automakers to support advanced driver assistance systems. Today, more than 54 million vehicles have Mobileye technology.

“This is a great combination of the two partners together and we expect some great scale,” Jack Weast, a senior principal engineer at Intel and the Vice President of Automated Vehicle Standards at Mobileye, said in a recent interview. “And this does kind of mark, officially, the first proof point of Mobileye’s technology getting into goods delivery in addition to all the other spaces that we’ve already announced.”

The company, which was acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion in 2017, has widened its scope in recent years, moving beyond its advanced driver assistance technology and toward the development of a self-driving vehicle system. More than two years ago, Mobileye announced plans to launch a kit that includes visual perception, sensor fusion, its REM mapping system and software algorithms. And in 2018, the company made an unlikely turn and announced plans to become a robotaxi operator, not just a supplier. Mobileye also plans to deploy autonomous shuttles with Transdev ATS and Lohr Group beginning in Europe. Mobileye also plans to begin operating an autonomous ride-hailing service in Israel in early 2022.

This latest deal shows Mobileye’s ambition to see its self-driving systems used in other applications beyond robotaxis.

The self-driving system, now branded as Mobilieye Drive, is made up of a system-on-chip based compute, redundant sensing subsystems based on camera, radar and lidar technology, its REM mapping system and a rules-based Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) driving policy. Mobileye’s REM mapping system essentially crowdsources data by tapping into more than 1 million vehicles equipped with its tech to build high-definition maps that can be used to support in ADAS and autonomous driving systems.

Udelv will work with Mobileye to integrate the self-driving technology with its own delivery management system. Mobileye will also provide over-the-air software support throughout the lifetime of the vehicles.

These purpose-built vehicles won’t have the typical mechanical features one might find in a human driven truck or delivery van. It will be designed to be capable of so-called Level 4 self-driving, a designation by SAE that means the vehicle can handle all operations without a human under certain conditions. It will also come with four-directional four-way steering, LED screens to great the people picking up the delivery and special compartments for goods.

There will be a teleoperations system that will allow for the maneuvering of the vehicles in parking lots, loading zones, apartment complexes and private roads, according to Udelv.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #mobileye, #transportation, #udelv

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Israel’s startup ecosystem powers ahead, amid a year of change

Released in 2011 “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” was a book that laid claim to the idea that Israel was an unusual type of country. It had produced and was poised to produce, an enormous number of technology startups, given its relatively small size. The moniker became so ubiquitous, both at home and abroad, that “Israel Startup Nation” is now the name of the country’s professional cycling team.

But it’s been hard to argue against this position in the last ten years, as the country powered ahead, famously producing ground-breaking startups like Waze, which was eventually picked up by Google for over $1 billion in 2013. Waze’s 100 employees received about $1.2 million on average, the largest payout to employees in Israeli high tech at the time, and the exit created a pool of new entrepreneurs and angel investors ever since.

Israel’s heady mix of questioning culture, tradition of national military service, higher education, the widespread use of English, appetite for risk and team spirit makes for a fertile place for fast-moving companies to appear.

And while Israel doesn’t have a Silicon Valley, it named its high-tech cluster “Silicon Wadi” (‘wadi’ means dry desert river bed in Arabic and colloquial Hebrew).

Much of Israel’s high-tech industry has emerged from former members of the country’s elite military intelligence units such as the Unit 8200 Intelligence division. From age 13 Israel’s students are exposed to advanced computing studies, and the cultural push to go into tech is strong. Traditional professions attract low salaries compared to software professionals.

Israel’s startups industry began emerging in the late 19080s and early 1990s. A significant event came with acquisitor by AOL of the the ICQ messaging system developed by Mirabilis. The Yozma Programme (Hebrew for “initiative”) from the government, in 1993, was seminal: It offered attractive tax incentives to foreign VCs in Israel and promised to double any investment with funds from the government. This came decades ahead of most western governments.

It wasn’t long before venture capital firms started up and major tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Samsung have R&D centers and accelerators located in the country.

So how are they doing?

At the start of 2020, Israeli startups and technology companies were looking back on a good 2019. Over the last decade, startup funding for Israeli entrepreneurs had increased by 400%. In 2019 there was a 30% increase in startup funding and a 102% increase in M&A activity. The country was experiencing a 6-year upward funding trend. And in 2019 Bay Area investors put $1.4 billion into Israeli companies.

By the end of last year, the annual Israeli Tech Review 2020 showed that Israeli tech firms had raised a record $9.93 billion in 2020, up 27% year on year, in 578 transactions – but M&A deals had plunged.

Israeli startups closed out December 2020 by raising $768 million in funding. In December 2018 that figure was $230 million, in 2019 it was just under $200 million.

Late-stage companies drew in $8.33 billion, from $6.51 billion in 2019, and there were 20 deals over $100 million totaling $3.26 billion, compared to 18 totaling $2.62 billion in 2019.

Top IPOs among startups were Lemonade, an AI-based insurance firm, on the New York Stock Exchange; and life sciences firm Nanox which raised $165 million on the Nasdaq.

The winners in 2020 were cybersecurity, fintech and internet of things, with food tech cooing on strong. But while the country has become famous for its cybersecurity startups, AI now accounts for nearly half of all investments into Israeli startups. That said, every sector is experiencing growth. Investors are also now favoring companies that speak to the Covid-era, such as cybersecurity, ecommerce and remote technologies for work and healthcare.

There are currently over 30 tech companies in Israel that are valued over $1 Billion. And four startups passed the $1 billion valuation just last year: mobile game developer Moon Active; Cato Networks, a cloud-based enterprise security platform; Ride-hailing app developer Gett got $100 million ahead of its rumored IPO; and behavioral biometrics startup BioCatch.

And there was a reminder that Israel can produce truly ‘magical’ tech: Tel Aviv battery storage firm StorDot raised money from Samsung Ventures and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for its battery which can fully charge a motor scooter in five minutes.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic put a break on mergers and acquisitions in 2020, as the world economy closed down.

M&A was just $7.8 billion in 93 deals, compared to over $14.2 billion in 143 M&A deals in 2019. RestAR was acquired by American giant Unity; CloudEssence was acquired by a U.S. cyber company; and Kenshoo acquired Signals Analytics.

And in 2020, Israeli companies made 121 funding deals on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and global capital markets, raising a total of $6.55 billion, compared to $1.95 billion raised in capital markets in Israel and abroad in 2019, as IPOs became an attractive exit alternative.

However, early-round investments (Seed + A Rounds) slowed due to pandemic uncertainty, but picked-up again towards the end of the year. As in other countries in ‘Covid 2020’, VC tended to focus on existing portfolio companies.

Covid brought unexpected upsides: Israeli startups, usually facing longs flight to Europe or the US to raise larger rounds of funding, suddenly found that Zoom was bringing investors to them.

Israeli startups adapted extremely well in the Covid era and that doesn’t look like changing. Startup Snapshot found that 55% startups profiled had changed (or considered changing) their product due to Covid-19. Meanwhile, remote-working – which comes naturally to Israeli entrepreneurs – is ‘flattening’ the world, giving a great advantage to normally distant startup ecosystems like Israel’s.

Via Transportation raised $400 million in Q1. Next Insurance raised $250 million in Q3. Seven exit transactions with over the $500 million mark happened in Q1–Q3/2020, compared to 10 for all of 2019. These included Checkmarx for $1.1 billion and Moovit, also for a billion.

There are three main hubs for the Israeli tech scene, in order of size: Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s economy and therefore startup scene suffered after the second Intifada (the Palestinian uprising that began in late September 2000 and ended around 2005). But today the city is far more stable, and is therefore attracting an increasing number of startups. And let’s not forget visual recognition company Mobileye, now worth $9.11 billion (£7 billion), came from Jerusalem.

Israel’s government is very supportive of it’s high-tech economy. When it noticed seed-stage startups were flagging, the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) announced the launch of a new funding program to help seed-stage and early-stage startups, earmarking NIS 80 million ($25 million) for the project.

This will offer participating companies grants worth 40 percent of an investment round up to $1.1 million and 50 percent of a total investment round for startups in the country or whose founders come from under-represented communities – Arab-Israeli, ultra-Orthodox, and women – in the high-tech industry.

Investments in Israeli seed-stage startups decreased both absolutely and as a percentage of total investments in Israeli startups (to 6% from 11%). However, the decline may also be a function of large tech firms setting up incubation hubs to cut up and absorb talent.

Another notable aspect of Israel’s startups scene is its, sometimes halting, attempt to engage with its Arab Israeli population. Arab Israelis account for 20% of Israel’s population but are hugely underrepresented in the tech sector. The Hybrid Programme is designed to address this disparity.

It, and others like it, this are a reminder that Israel is geographically in the Middle East. Since the recent normalization pact between Israel and the UAE, relations with Arab states have begun to thaw. Indeed, Over 50,000 Israelis have visited the United Arab Emirates since the agreement.

In late November, Dubai-based DIFC FinTech Hive—the biggest financial innovation hub in the Middle East—signed a milestone agreement with Israel’s Fintech-Aviv. Both entities will now work together to facilitate the cross-border exchange of knowledge and business between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Perhaps it’s a sign that Israel is becoming more at ease with its place in the region? Certainly, both Israel’s tech scene and the Arab world’s is set to benefit from these more cordial relations.

Our Israel survey is here.

#app-developer, #artificial-intelligence, #biocatch, #business-incubators, #checkmarx, #computing, #dubai, #e-commerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #food-tech, #google, #healthcare, #insurance, #ipo, #israel, #jerusalem, #kenshoo, #lemonade, #microsoft, #middle-east, #mobile-game-developer, #mobileye, #money, #nanox, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #roman-abramovich, #samsung-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #technology, #tel-aviv, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #unity, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-firms, #waze

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Tesla’s main self-driving rival isn’t Google—it’s Intel’s Mobileye

A man at a podium smiles while holding up a palm-sized computer component.

Enlarge / Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua shows off a silicon photonics lidar chip slated for introduction in 2025. (credit: Mobileye)

One of the most underrated companies in the self-driving technology sector is Mobileye, an Israeli company that Intel purchased for $15 billion in 2017. Mobileye is the largest supplier of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that ship with today’s cars. In a Monday interview at the virtual CES conference, Mobileye explained its strategy to stay on top as the industry shifts to fully self-driving vehicles.

Mobileye’s self-driving strategy has a number of things in common with that of Tesla, the world’s most valuable automaker. Like Tesla, Mobileye is aiming to gradually evolve its current driver-assistance technology into a fully self-driving system. So far, neither company has shipped products with the expensive lidar sensors used in many self-driving prototypes.

And like Tesla, Mobileye has access to a wealth of real-world driving data from its customers’ cars. Tesla harvests data directly from Tesla customers. Mobileye has data-sharing agreements with six car companies—including Volkswagen, BMW, and Nissan—that ship Mobileye’s cameras, chips, and software.

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#amnon-shashua, #autopilot, #cars, #mobileye, #tesla

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Mobileye is bringing its autonomous vehicle test fleets to at least four more cities in 2021

Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel, is scaling up its autonomous vehicle program and plans to launch test fleets in at least four more cities over the next several months, including Detroit, Paris Shanghai and Tokyo.

Mobileye president and CEO Amnon Shashua said Monday during the virtual 2021 CES tech trade show that if the company can receive regulatory approval it will also begin testing on public roads in New York City.

The expansion announcement, along with details about a new lidar System on Chip product that is under development and will come to market in 2025, illustrates Mobileye’s ambitions to commercialize automated vehicle technology.

The selection of the cities and countries is based on two factors: customers and the regulatory environment, according to Jack Weast, a senior principal engineer at Intel and the Vice President of Automated Vehicle Standards at Mobileye.

“That’s why we put our cars in the U.S. in Detroit, rather than Silicon Valley because all major OEMs are in Detroit,” Weast said in an interview Monday, adding that Peugeot Renault are in Paris and Toyota and Nissan are in Japan. “The selection of the cities had a lot to do with putting the vehicles near our customers so that they would all have the opportunity to experience the technology firsthand because we expect our OEM customers to continue to be an important part of our business going forward even, even as we supply a complete self driving system.”

A test fleet is already on the road in Detroit, according to the company. Mobileye launched its first test fleet in Jerusalem in 2018 and added one in Munich in 2020.

Mobileye is taking a three-pronged strategy to developing and deploying automated vehicle technology that combines a full self-driving stack — that includes redundant sensing subsystems based on camera, radar and lidar technology— with its REM mapping system and a rules-based Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) driving policy. Mobileye’s REM mapping system essentially crowdsources data by tapping into nearly 1 million vehicles equipped with its tech to build high-definition maps that can be used to support in ADAS and autonomous driving systems. Shashua said Mobileye’s technology can now map the world automatically with nearly 8 million kilometers tracked daily and nearly 1 billion kilometers completed to date. 

This strategy will allow the company to efficiently launch and operate commercial robotaxi services as well as bring the technology to consumer passenger vehicles by 2025, Shashua said Monday.

Mobileye has long dominated a specific niche in the automotive world as a developer of computer vision sensor systems that help prevent collisions. In 2018, the company expanded its focus beyond being a mere supplier to becoming a robotaxi operator; now it’s aiming to bring autonomous vehicle technology to passenger cars by augmenting its computer vision technology with the new lidar SoC it is developing with Intel.

Mobileye has already partnered with Luminar to supply lidar for its robotaxis. However, Mobileye revealed more about the lidar SoC that it says will be ready for passenger vehicles by 2025. Shashua nor Weast would say if it planned to end its partnership with Luminar once its own lidar SoC is ready for the market.

The lidar, which will use Intel’s specialized silicon photonics fab, is notable because Mobileye is known for its camera-based technology. And yet it’s not backing away from that camera-first approach. Shashua explained Mobileye believes the best technological and business approach is to develop a camera-first system and use the lidar and radar as add-ons for redundancy.

“The idea is that you have this camera subsystem,” Shashua said. “Since it’s camera based, it’s at a consumer price level. So now you have scalable thinking. And this scalable thinking is really the cure for sustaining for a long time until level four becomes ubiquitous.”

Shashua pointed to its long-term high-volume agreement for advanced driver-assistance systems with Geely Auto as an example of how a camera-first approach could later be adapted. The lidar and radar can be added on to support greater automation capabilities once the market is ready.

#automotive, #ces, #mobileye, #transportation

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Mobileye taps Luminar to supply lidar for its robotaxi fleet

Luminar, the buzzy sensor startup that is on the verge of becoming a publicly traded company, locked in a supplier deal to furnish Intel subsidiary Mobileye with lidar for its fleet of autonomous vehicles.

The deal, announced Friday, will see a rising star paired with a company that has long dominated the automotive industry. While the supplier agreement is nowhere near the scale of Mobileye’s core computer vision business, it is an important collaboration that extends beyond a few pilot programs. Luminar has had a development agreement with Mobileye for nearly two years now. This new agreement signals the next critical step for both companies.

Mobileye’s camera-based sensors are used by most automakers to support advanced driver assistance systems. Today, more than 54 million vehicles have Mobileye technology. But the company, which was acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion in 2017, has branched out in recent years, moving beyond its advanced driver assistance technology and towards the development of a self-driving vehicle system. Two years ago, Mobileye announced plans to launch a kit that includes visual perception, sensor fusion, its REM mapping system and software algorithms.

Mobileye has since ratcheted up its self-driving ambitions and taken what some in the industry see as an unlikely turn to become a robotaxi operator, not just a supplier.

Luminar and Mobileye’s agreement while small at the moment is still a production contract. Luminar’s lidar will be part of Mobileye’s first-generation fleet of driverless vehicles, which are being piloted in Dubai, Tel Aviv, Paris, China and Daegu City, South Korea. Mobileye’s ultimate aim is to expand its robotaxi operations and sell its self-driving stack (or AV series solution) to other companies. Mobileye CEO Ammon Shashua has said the company is targeting commercial robotaxi services to be launched in 2022.

“So you basically have a production deal here to be able to equip their vehicles towards the 2022 launch of their service and power that in parallel to their camera solution to create that safety and redundancy,” Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell said in a recent interview.

While the first use of this ‘AV series solution’ is for Mobileye’s own internal fleet, Russell is interested in the opportunities that will follow.

“They’ve taken a very different strategy and are very different company than any other kind private AV development company,” Russell said. “These guys have, tens of millions of products deployed on series production vehicles; they know what it takes to put something into series production. So to able to ride that wave and get on the ground floor to be in production vehicles as well was of particular interest for us.”

Luminar has landed other production-level deals. Volvo announced in May that it will start producing vehicles in 2022 that are equipped with lidar and a perception stack Luminar that the automaker will use to deploy an automated driving system for highways. For now, the lidar will be part of a hardware package that consumers can add as an option to a Volvo’s second-generation Scalable Product Architecture vehicles, starting with the XC90. Volvo will combine Luminar’s  lidar with cameras, radar, software and back-up systems for functions such as steering, braking and battery power to enable its highway pilot feature.

Daimler’s trucks division said in October it had invested in Luminar as part of a broader partnership to produce autonomous trucks capable of navigating highways without a human driver behind the wheel.

 

#automotive, #luminar, #mobileye, #transportation

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Mobileye signs driver-assistance deal with Geely, one of China’s largest privately-held auto makers

Mobileye’s computer vision technology will be used in a new premium electric vehicle called Zero Concept from Geely Auto Group, one of China’s largest privately-held automobile manufacturers. Mobileye’s owner Intel made the announcement today at the Beijing Auto Show. Zero Concept is produced by Lynk & Co., the brand formed as a joint venture between Geely Auto and Volvo Car Group, and uses Mobileye’s SuperVision driving-assistance system.

Intel also announced that Mobileye and Geely Auto have signed a long-term, high-volume agreement for advanced driver-assistance systems that means more Geely Auto vehicles will be equipped with Mobileye’s computer vision technology.

In a post, Mobileye chief executive officer and Intel senior vice president Amnon Shashua wrote that the deal is the first time “Mobileye will be responsible for the full solution stack, including hardware and software, driving policy and control.”

He added “it also marks the first time that an OEM has publicly noted Mobileye’s plan to provide over-the-air updates to the system after deployment. While this capacity has always been in our repertoire, Geey and Mobileye want to assure customers that we can easily scale their driving-assistance features and keep everything up to date across the car’s lifetime.”

Based in Israel, Mobileye was acquired by Intel in 2017 for $15.3 billion. Its technology and services are used in vehicles from automakers including BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Nissan, Honda and General Motors, and includes features that warn drivers about issues like blind spots, potential lane departures, collision risks and speed limits.

Geely Auto’s parent company is Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, also the parent company of Volvo Car Group. In 2019, Geely Auto Group says its brands sold a total of more than 1.46 million units. China is one of the fastest-growing electric vehicle markets in the world, and even though sales were hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, government policies, including consumer subsidies and investment in charging infrastructure, are expected to help its EV market recover.

#automotive, #china, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #geely-auto-group, #intel, #israel, #mobileye, #mobility, #tc

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Sight Diagnostics raises $71M Series D for its blood analyzer

Sight Diagnostics, the Israel-based health-tech company behind the FDA-cleared OLO blood analyzer, today announced that it has raised a $71 million Series D round with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures (which led its Series C round)and crowd-funding platform OurCrowd. With this, the company has now raised a total of $124 million, though the company declined to share its current valuation.

With a founding team that used to work at Mobileye, among other companies, Sight made an early bet on using machine vision to analyze blood samples and provide a full blood count comparable to existing lab tests within minutes. The company received FDA clearance late last year, something that surely helped clear the way for this additional round of funding.

Image Credits: Sight Diagnostics

“Historically, blood tests were done by humans observing blood under a microscope. That was the case for maybe 200 years,” Sight CEO and co-founder Yossi Pollak told me. “About 60 years ago, a new technology called FCM — or flow cytometry — started to be used on large volume of blood from venous samples to do it automatically. In a sense, we are going back to the first approach, we just replaced the human eye behind the microscope with machine vision.”

Pollak noted that the tests generate about 60 gigabytes of information (a lot of that is the images, of course) and that he believes that the complete blood count is only a first step. One of the diseases it is looking to diagnose is COVID-19. To do so, the company has placed devices in hospitals around the world to see if it can gather the data to detect anomalies that may indicate the severity of some of the aspects of the disease.

“We just kind of scratched the surface of the ability of AI to help with with a wish with blood diagnostics,” said Pollak. “Specifically now, there’s so much value around COVID in decentralizing diagnostics and blood tests. Think keeping people — COVID-negative or -positive —  outside of hospitals to reduce the busyness of hospitals and reduce the risk for contamination for cancer patients and a lot of other populations that require constant complete blood counts. I think there’s a lot of potential and a lot of a value that we can bring specifically now to different markets and we are definitely looking into additional applications beyond [complate blood count] and also perfecting our product.”

So far, Sight Diagnostics has applied for 20 patents and eight have been issued so far. And while machine learning is obviously at the core of what the company does — with the models running on the OLO machine and not in the cloud — Pollak also stressed that the team has made breakthroughs around the sample preparation to allow it to automatically prepare the sample for analysis.

Image Credits: Sight Diagnostics

Pollok stressed that the company focused on the U.S. market with this funding round, which makes sense, given that it was still looking for its FDA clearance. He also noted that this marks Koch Disrupt Technologies’ third investment in Israel, with the other two also being healthcare startups.

“KDT’s investment in Sight is a testament to the company’s disruptive technology that we believe will fundamentally change the way blood diagnostic work is done,’ said Chase Koch, President of Koch Disruptive Technologies . “We’re proud to partner with the Sight team, which has done incredible work innovating this technology to transform modern healthcare and provide greater efficiency and safety for patients, healthcare workers, and hospitals worldwide.”

The company now has about 100 employees, mostly in R&D, with offices in London and New York.

#artificial-intelligence, #cancer, #disease, #fda, #food-and-drug-administration, #health, #healthcare, #israel, #koch-disruptive-technologies, #london, #machine-learning, #machine-vision, #medicine, #mobileye, #new-york, #ourcrowd, #partner, #president, #sight-diagnostics, #tc, #united-states

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Buildots raises $16M to bring computer vision to construction management

Buildots, a Tel Aviv and London-based startup that is using computer vision to modernize the construction management industry, today announced that it has raised $16 million in total funding. This includes a $3 million seed round that was previously unreported and a $13 million Series A round, both led by TLV Partners. Other investors include Innogy Ventures, Tidhar Construction Group, Ziv Aviram (co-founder of Mobileye & OrCam), Magma Ventures head Zvika Limon, serial entrepreneurs Benny Schnaider and  Avigdor Willenz, as well as Tidhar chairman Gil Geva.

The idea behind Buildots is pretty straightforward. The team is using hardhat-mounted 360-degree cameras to allow project managers at construction sites to get an overview of the state of a project and whether it remains on schedule. The company’s software creates a digital twin of the construction site, using the architectural plans and schedule as its basis, and then uses computer vision to compare what the plans say to the reality that its tools are seeing. With this, Buildots can immediately detect when there’s a power outlet missing in a room or whether there’s a sink that still needs to be installed in a kitchen, for example.

“Buildots have been able to solve a challenge that for many seemed unconquerable, delivering huge potential for changing the way we complete our projects,” said Tidhar’s Geva in a statement. “The combination of an ambitious vision, great team and strong execution abilities quickly led us from being a customer to joining as an investor to take part in their journey.”

The company was co-founded in 2018 by Roy Danon, Aviv Leibovici and Yakir Sundry. Like so many Israeli startups, the founders met during their time in the Israeli Defense Forces, where they graduated from the Talpiot unit.

“At some point, like many of our friends, we had the urge to do something together — to build a company, to start something from scratch,” said Danon, the company’s CEO. “For us, we like getting our hands dirty. We saw most of our friends going into the most standard industries like cloud and cyber and storage and things that obviously people like us feel more comfortable in, but for some reason we had like a bug that said, ‘we want to do something that is a bit harder, that has a bigger impact on the world.’ ”

So the team started looking into how it could bring technology to traditional industries like agriculture, finance and medicine, but then settled upon construction thanks to a chance meeting with a construction company. For the first six months, the team mostly did research in both Israel and London to understand where it could provide value.

Danon argues that the construction industry is essentially a manufacturing industry, but with very outdated control and process management systems that still often relies on Excel to track progress.

Image Credits: Buildots

Construction sites obviously pose their own problems. There’s often no Wi-Fi, for example, so contractors generally still have to upload their videos manually to Buildots’ servers. They are also three dimensional, so the team had to develop systems to understand on what floor a video was taken, for example, and for large indoor spaces, GPS won’t work either.

The teams tells me that before the COVID-19 lockdowns, it was mostly focused on Israel and the U.K., but the pandemic actually accelerated its push into other geographies. It just started work on a large project in Poland and is scheduled to work on another one in Japan next month.

Because the construction industry is very project-driven, sales often start with getting one project manager on board. That project manager also usually owns the budget for the project, so they can often also sign the check, Danon noted. And once that works out, then the general contractor often wants to talk to the company about a larger enterprise deal.

As for the funding, the company’s Series A round came together just before the lockdowns started. The company managed to bring together an interesting mix of investors from both the construction and technology industries.

Now, the plan is to scale the company, which currently has 35 employees, and figure out even more ways to use the data the service collects and make it useful for its users. “We have a long journey to turn all the data we have into supporting all the workflows on a construction site,” said Danon. “There are so many more things to do and so many more roles to support.”

Image Credits: Buildots

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BMW, Mercedes Benz end ‘long term’ automated driving alliance, for now

BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG have punted on what was meant to be a long term collaboration to develop next-generation automated driving technology together, less than a year after announcing the agreement.

The German automakers called the break up “mutual and amicable” and have each agreed to concentrate on their existing development paths. Those new paths may include working with new or current partners. The two companies also emphasized that cooperation may be resumed at a later date.

The partnership, which was announced in July 2019, was never meant to be exclusive.  Instead, it reflected the increasingly common approach among legacy manufacturers to form loose development agreements in an aim to share the capitally intensive work of developing, testing and validating automated driving technology.

The two companies did have some lofty goals. The partnership aimed to develop  driver assistance systems, highly automated driving on highways, and automated parking and launch those technology in series vehicles scheduled for 2024.

It seems that the perceived benefits of working together were overshadowed by reality: creating a shared technology platform was a more complex and expensive task than expected, according to comments from the companies. BMW and Mercedes-Benz AG said they were unable to hold detailed expert discussions and talk to suppliers about technology roadmaps until the contract was signed last year.

“In these talks — and after extensive review — both sides concluded that, in view of the expense involved in creating a shared technology platform, as well as current business and economic conditions, the timing is not right for successful implementation of the cooperation,” the companies said.

BMW and Mercedes have other projects and partners. BMW, for instance, is part of a collaboration with Intel, Mobileye, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ansys. Daimler and Bosch launched a robotaxi pilot project in San Jose last year.

Meanwhile, both companies are still working together in other areas. Five years, BMW and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, joined Audi AG to acquire location and technology platform HERE. That ownership consortium has since grown to include more companies.

And last year, BMW Group and Daimler AG also pooled their mobility services in a joint venture under the umbrella of the NOW family.

Separately, BMW said Friday it will cut 6,000 jobs in an agreement reached with the German Works Council. The cuts, prompted by sluggish sales caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be reportedly accomplished through early retirement, non-renewal of temporary contracts, ending redundant positions and not filling vacant positions, Marketwatch reported.

#ansys, #audi-ag, #automotive, #automotive-industry, #bmw, #bmw-group, #bosch, #companies, #daimler, #daimler-ag, #driver, #here, #intel, #mercedes-benz, #mobileye, #mobility-services, #san-jose

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Hailo raises $60M Series B for its AI chips

Israeli AI chipmaker Hailo today announced that it has raised a $60 million Series B funding round led by its existing investors, who were joined by new strategic investor ABB Technology Ventures, the venture arm of the Swiss-based multination ABB, NEC Corporation and Londons’ Latitude Ventures. The new funding will help Hailo to roll out its Hailo-8 Deep Learning chip and to get into new markets and industries.

“This immense vote of confidence from our new strategic and financial investors, along with existing ones, is a testimony to our breakthrough innovation and market potential,” said Orr Danon, CEO and co-founder of Hailo. “The new funding will help us expedite the deployment of new levels of edge computing capabilities in smart devices and intelligent industries around the world, including areas such as mobility, smart cities, industrial automation, smart retail and beyond.”

I last met with the Hailo team at CES in January. At the time, the company was showing off a number of impressive demos, mostly around real-time image recognition. What makes the Hailo chip stand out is its innovative architecture, which can automatically adapt resources to best run its users’ custom neural networks. With this, the chip doesn’t just run faster but is also far more energy efficient. The company promises 26 tero operations per second in performance from its chip, which it says “outperforms all other edge processors with its small size, high performance, and low power consumption.”

With this round, Hailo’s total funding is now $88 million. In part, the investor enthusiasm for Hailo is surely driven by the success of other Israeli chip startups. Mobileye, after all, went to Intel for $15.3 billion, which also recently acquired Habana Labs. And the time, of course, is ripe for deep learning chips at the edge now that AI/ML technology is quickly becoming table stakes.

“Hailo is poised to become a defining player in the rapidly emerging market for AI processors,” said Julian Rowe, partner at Latitude Ventures. “Their Deep Learning edge chip can be disruptive to so many sectors today, while the new, innovative use cases Hailo’s chips can unlock are just starting to reveal themselves. We’re thrilled to join the team for what lies ahead.”

#artificial-intelligence, #deep-learning, #habana-labs, #hailo, #hardware, #intel, #mobileye, #neural-networks

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