Omer Keilaf

Omer Keilaf

Innoviz develops and manufactures solid-state LiDAR (which stands for Light Detection and Ranging) sensors and perception software that enable the mass-production of autonomous vehicles. Continuing just-auto/QUBE's series of interviews here at CES, we caught up with Omer Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder, Innoviz Technologies to learn more about its sensor technologies, business with BMW and InnovizOne for which it won a CES 2019 innovation award.

There are a number of companies out there making solid-state LiDAR. What is Innoviz's USP?

Innoviz delivers solid-state LiDAR sensors that are commercially available now and provide the best perception software, enabling autonomous vehicles to understand and navigate their surroundings with unparalleled vision. Innoviz's solution offers a unique design and solution that withstands strenuous vibration testing and provides the reliability and durability required for automotive components.

Innoviz is the first solid-state automotive-grade LiDAR provider to be selected by a major automaker (BMW) for the mass-production of Level 3-5 autonomous vehicles.

Innoviz is the first solid-state automotive-grade LiDAR provider to be selected by a major automaker (BMW) for the mass-production of Level 3-5 autonomous vehicles. Innoviz is partnering with leading Tier 1 automotive suppliers and is the only LiDAR manufacturer that meets the stringent requirements of automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers for sensor cost, size, range, resolution, reliability, safety and durability.

What have been the milestones for Innoviz over the past year?

Over the past year, Innoviz has grown exponentially. Innoviz have doubled its staff across the board and has opened offices in several different countries –– which speaks to the company's growth as a startup and where it's ultimately headed. Additionally, Innoviz was selected to collaborate with BMW, for series production of its autonomous vehicles in 2021.

We understand that Innoviz has won a CES 2019 innovation award for its InnovizOne. And you've mentioned that BMW intends to use your LiDAR solution in its AV programme from 2021. Through this recognition, has your startup come of age?

While the collaboration with BMW has been a major milestone for Innoviz, it's worth noting that this is also significant for the entire LiDAR market as a whole, especially when considering validation of the technology and a path forward for the market leaning towards the adoption of solid-state solutions for wide-scale automaker integration into autonomous vehicles. Beyond BMW, Innoviz has also secured several partnerships with Tier-1 suppliers, making the company's cutting edge LiDAR available to countless OEMs looking to enable ADAS features today and Level 3-5 autonomy tomorrow.

Since launching in 2016 it's safe to say the company has reached maturity and industry-leader status promptly. That said, our team continues to grow and with that growth, you will start seeing the entire company make strides in all areas including customer wins, partnerships, R&D, product innovations, etc.

We hear that spinning LiDARs cost more than solid-state LiDARs. Could you give us an idea how much your solid-state LiDAR units will cost (a range) in mass production and how costs could fall in the coming years?  Also, what is the power consumption of your solutions?

Cars will need at least one LiDAR unit to provide ADAS capabilities and several LiDARs to provide fully autonomous capabilities.

The price of Innoviz's LiDAR offering is significantly lower than the tens of thousands of dollars quoted by competitors for their LiDAR units. 'Spinning' LiDARs contain many moving parts which increase the risk for wear and tear and mechanical breakdown – costly items to address given the delicacy of prototype units. Cars will need at least one LiDAR unit to provide ADAS capabilities and several LiDARs to provide fully autonomous capabilities. Automakers planning to mass-produce AVs will need LiDARs that cost hundreds, not tens of thousands, of dollars.

In order to mass-produce autonomous vehicles (AV), automakers want to test and integrate high-performance, low-cost LiDAR solutions today. It is necessary to balance product performance across the following criteria: range, resolution, cost, reliability, size, power, and scalability. In the coming years, refinements to our LiDAR technology and manufacturing process will continue to increase in performance while also reducing cost.

InnovizOne consumes between 15-23 watts, depending on its operating mode, which is about one-tenth of the average LiDAR on the market.

Power consumption is critical for future autonomous vehicles emissions, range and mileage. InnovizOne consumes between 15-23 watts, depending on its operating mode, which is about one-tenth of the average LiDAR on the market. The InnovizOne also features a one-of-a-kind, configurable power consumption mode that dynamically adjusts to the driving conditions, leading to the vehicle being able to save power and travel at longer distances when needed.  

Innoviz has a number of technology partnerships, including HiRain Technologies. Why did you partner with HiRain and what will it mean for your existing customers?

The addition of Innoviz's LiDAR to HiRain's offering enables Chinese OEM's to access the automotive industry's most comprehensive mass-market LiDAR solution available today, as an integrated component of their overall autonomous driving systems. Again, this is great for Innoviz because it introduces us to a new market we had never been part of through a trustworthy partner with well-established OEM/automaker relationships.

For Innoviz's customers, China is helping lead the way towards the autonomous vehicle future and HiRain is one of the most influential companies in the Chinese automotive industry. Last year, around 26 million vehicles were manufactured in China, making it by far the largest automotive manufacturing country in the world. Innoviz's new office in China uniquely positions the company to support a burgeoning mobility market with OEMs, racing toward autonomy at speeds that challenge international rivals.

Long term, I guess a new generation of single-chip LiDARs could simplify production and result in price completion. How do you see the marketplace evolving?   

As the marketplace demands more, technological advancements, we'll see a trend toward more sophisticated and less expensive LiDAR solutions.

Autonomous vehicle technology is progressing faster than ever, thanks to early adopters of LiDAR – whether they are auto manufacturers or companies producing unmanned systems. As the marketplace demands more, technological advancements, we'll see a trend toward more sophisticated and less expensive LiDAR solutions.

These more advanced forms of LiDAR can also spur breakthroughs for higher perception layers in the autonomous vehicle software stack that rely on raw output data from primary sensors. Moreover, improvements for the automotive market can push forward other LiDAR applications, in robotics, passenger shuttles and drones.

We understand that Innoviz has established a separate division that focuses on developing machine vision. Could you tell us more about that?

Innoviz is looking to significantly expand its perception software division, and already has the foundation to do so. Innoviz's perception software will be included with its LiDAR sensors for BMW's first AVs, scheduled for production in 2021. This indicates a paradigm shift within the industry and clearly signalled Innoviz's holistic solution towards LiDAR, combined and perception capabilities as the best fit for mass-produced autonomous vehicles. Innoviz is the first solid-state LiDAR manufacturer capable of delivering a commercially viable, automotive-grade sensor at scale.

What's next for Innoviz?

With Innoviz's InnovizPro LiDAR enabling immediate accessibility to its cutting-edge technology, it creates an ideal pathway for our upcoming InnovizOne LiDAR. The InnovizOne automotive-grade LiDAR will provide outstanding 3D perception for mass-production of Level 3-Level 5 autonomous vehicles. When coupled with Innoviz's perception software, InnovizOne enables superior object detection, classification, and tracking with unrivalled angular resolution at the highest frame rate on the market.

Innoviz has also expanded globally with the opening of offices in four new countries including the US, Germany, China and Japan, with additional expansions planned in 2019. These regions were selected based on their proximity to areas of high market demand and/or existing customers who are leveraging the company's LiDAR for automotive applications (including OEMs, fleet companies, shuttle services and Tier 1 suppliers), mapping, robotics and more. Additionally, a new, state-of-the-art 4,000 square meter headquarters in Israel will provide Innoviz with labs, garages for test vehicles, clean rooms and more that expand existing manufacturing capabilities. In addition, Innoviz's simple assembly process, thanks to its proprietary chip designs, passes dramatic price reductions on to customers.