Developing autonomous vehicles that can drive themselves in ideal circumstances is one thing. Getting them to operate safely in all conditions is quite another, but it’s what’s required before self-driving cars can become a reality. That’s why Porsche has turned to TriEye.
The Tel Aviv-based startup has developed a new kind of short-wave infrared (SWIR) sensor technology that, as you can see from the (silent) video below, can “see” better than other existing technologies in poor-visibility conditions, such as heavy rain, dust, or fog – and can do it at a lower cost, too.
The potentially vital development is based on nearly a decade’s worth of advanced research in nano-photonics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by Professor Uriel Levy, TriEye’s chief technology officer who co-founded the company almost three years ago with Avi Bakal and Omer Kapach. Now it’s received vital support from the high-performance automaker, which has taken an undisclosed minority stake in TriEye as part of the startup’s Series A funding round.
“Our mission is to save lives and reduce risks of accidents in all weather and lighting conditions,” said TriEye CEO Avi Bakal. “The expansion of our Series A round and the addition of Porsche as a strategic investor serves as further proof that SWIR is a critical component in the necessary sensor fusion solution to enable safer and better advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.”
The stake was acquired by Porsche Ventures, the investment arm of the German automaker founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche (also known as the father of the original Volkswagen Beetle). In 2009 Porsche’s parent holding company acquired a controlling stake in the Volkswagen Group and integrated its sports-car business into the group alongside its other brands like Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini – several of which have set up shop in Israel to tap into its burgeoning smart-mobility sector.
Porsche opened its “innovation office” in Tel Aviv in 2017, investing an untold eight-figure sum in the local scene – including in Grove Ventures, which also participated in TriEye’s Series A funding round, alongside Intel Capital (another branch of the same chipmaking giant that owns Jerusalem-based Mobileye).
“TriEye is a promising technology company led by an exceptionally strong team with experience in the areas of nano-photonics, deep learning and the development of semi-conductor components,” commented Porsche R&D chief Michael Steiner. “We see great potential in this sensor technology that paves the way for the next generation of driver assistance systems and autonomous driving functions.”