GM invests in radar software startup Oculii as demand for automated driving features rise

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Oculii, a software startup that aims to improve the spatial resolution of radar sensors by up to 100 times, has made a new investment from General Motors. The new funding, which both companies say is in the millions, comes just months after Oculi closed a $55 million Series B.

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Oculi and GM have already been working together “for some time,” CEO Steven Hong told Nerdshala in a recent interview. Although he declined to specify how GM plans to use Oculi’s software, it could be used to enhance the capabilities of the automaker’s hands-free advanced driver assistance system called Super Cruise. . Hong said the company is also working with a few other OEMs, one of which is on the cap table.

“When a company like GM says, this is great technology and this is something that we want to potentially use down the line, it notices the whole supply chain and more closely works with you to adopt solutions, technology. Works. What are they selling to OEMs,” he said.

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The startup has no intention of making hardware. Instead, Oculii wants to license the software to radar companies. The startup claims it could take low-cost, commercially available radar sensors — sensors that weren’t designed for autonomous driving, but for limited scenarios such as emergency braking or parking assistance — and enable more autonomous maneuvering. to use its AI software, Hong said.

“We really believe that the way to deliver something that is scalable is through software, because software fundamentally improves with data,” he said. “Software is fundamentally better with better hardware in each generation that is released. Software gets fundamentally cheaper and cheaper and cheaper over time, much faster than hardware for example.”

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The news is certainly fast for radar, a sensor commonly used for assistive capabilities due to its imaging limitations. But if Oculi can actually improve radar performance, which happens to be much cheaper than lidar, it could mean huge cost savings for automakers.

Tesla, the world’s largest electric vehicle maker by sales volume, recently phased out radar sensors from its advanced driver assistance system in favor of a “pure vision” approach that uses cameras and a supercomputer-powered neural network. uses. Hong said the radar Tesla eliminated was too low-resolution, and “not really adding anything to their existing pipeline.”

But he doesn’t think the company will always count on radar as the technology improves. “Fundamentally, each of these sensors improves [the] The protection case and gets you closer and closer to 99.99999% reliability. At the end of the day, the most important thing is getting as much credibility as you can. “

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