Inside Seoul Robotics’s contrarian method to autonomous car tech • TechCrunch

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Seoul Robotics has taken a divergent path on the highway to commercializing autonomous autos. As an alternative of growing and embedding the complete self-driving system, together with sensors right into a car, Seoul is popping to surrounding infrastructure to do a few of the heavy lifting.

And its contrarian method has attracted a brand new group of traders and $25 million in enterprise funding. The Collection B funding was led by KB Funding, in response to Seoul Robotics.

“As an alternative of outfitting the autos themselves with sensors, we’re outfitting the encircling infrastructure with sensors,” vp of product and options at Seoul Robotics Jerone Ground mentioned in August when the corporate partnered with NVIDIA.

The corporate’s autonomous-vehicle infrastructure platform referred to as Level 5 Control Tower (or LV5 CTRL TWR) together with its branded Sensr software program, collects data from sensors like cameras and lidar (mild detection and ranging radar) in addition to different information saved within the cloud after which sends that to autos. 

Based on Seoul Robotics CEO Hanbin Lee, the LV5 CTRL TWR makes use of an automated transmission and connectivity constructed into autos to maneuver them autonomously with out requiring {hardware}.

Seoul Robotics claims its LV5 CTRL TWR helps present data on the encircling surroundings and chooses the most secure path for the car. 

The infrastructure platform manages a automotive’s features resembling lane-keeping and brake help by way of its know-how, referred to as “autonomy by infrastructure (ATI),” and a V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication system, which sends data from a car to any surrounding infrastructure and different autos.

“[With the autonomy through infrastructure (ATI), users can automate millions of cars passing through a parking lot with only a few hundred sensors,” Lee said. 

Seoul Robotics deployed its technology with BMW to test the German car’s pilot program with the new BMW 7 Series and the fully electric BMW i7 in July 2022.

Founded in 2017 by four co-founders, Seoul Robotics now works with global manufacturers (OEMs) like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Qualcomm and LG Uplus to diversify the use of its system.

“We are in discussions with about nine more global OEMs now for partnerships,” Lee said.

Lee also said that one of its most unique features is that its Sensr software, launched in 2018, allows users to choose a sensor, or multiple sensors, that best fit their needs, meaning that customers can select services based on their requirements and budgets.

“While Sensr is very much still the backbone of our product offerings, including LV5 CTRL TWR, the types of solutions we offer are far more sophisticated compared to 2018,” Lee told TechCrunch. “We now offer three plug-and-play LiDAR development kits that include all the components necessary for any organization to get set up with a 3D system.” Additionally, it provides solutions tailored to a specific application, such as pedestrian safety, railroad obstacle detection and Level 5 autonomy, Lee continued.

Lee explained that the earliest LiDAR-based perception software was all developed by sensor manufacturers, and the software had to be tied to the hardware. “With that approach, the challenge was that each sensor have different strengths and weaknesses; some have a wide field of view but short range, others have a narrow field of view and long-range,” Lee said. “It is also not possible to mix and match sensor, which we come in.”

Image Credits: Seoul Robotics

Last week, the company launched a feature that uses LiDAR and its Sensr software to detect and alert instances of wrong-way driving. Seoul Robotics says the wrong-way detection feature is being deployed on freeways and highways in California, Florida and Tennessee, as well as in Europe and Asia.

With the latest funding, the startup plans to grow its team and expand applications of Sensr to bring its automated vehicle technology to other potential partners across industries like logistics (rental car fleets, trucking yards and automated valet parking systems), smart cities and security, Lee said. Other investors include Noh and Partners, Future Play, Korean Development Bank, Artesian and Access Ventures also participated in Series B.

The company, headquartered in Seoul with offices in Munich, California, and Raleigh, raised $6 million in Series A in 2020. 

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