Blickfeld scores $4.25M seed round to let autonomous vehicles ‘see’

Blickfeld, a Munich-based startup developing a low-cost light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system to let autonomous vehicles “see,” has raised $4.25 million in seed funding.

The round was led by Fluxunit (the corporate venture arm of lighting company Osram), High-Tech Gründerfonds, Tengelmann Ventures, and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners, and will be used to speed up development of the company’s technology, including hiring more engineers. It should also see Blickfeld enter the first trials with automotive OEMs in early 2018.

In the automotive industry, LiDAR is considered one of the decisive technologies needed to make autonomous driving a reality, effectively acting as a car’s eyes, enabling it to see and understand the world. The tech is also used in autonomous robots and drones.

However, where Blickfeld says it is different to other companies offering LiDAR tech is that its system is based on commercial off-the-shelf components and silicon, and therefore can be mass-manufactured at low cost whilst still meeting high automotive performance requirements.

Specfically, I’m told that Blickfeld, which was founded by Dr. Florian Petit, Dr. Mathias Müller and Rolf Wojtech at the Technical University of Munich, employs a patent-pending scanner technology that is able to create high-definition, three-dimensional geometric maps, and merges the best of both silicon micro-fabrication and already established LiDAR concepts. It is this approach that “closes the gap between today’s high-cost systems and the automotive mass-market needs”, says the startup.

Meanwhile, Blickfeld is talking up the value add of its new investors. It notes that Osram brings deep technical expertise at the component-level (e.g for lasers or for state-of-the-art optical sensors), and will also be able to help the young company reach top-tier automotive customers.

Tengelmann Ventures also previously invested in Uber, which has its eye on autonomous driving, and UVC Partners has made several mobility investments. They include European bus company Flixbus, car-sharing solution aggregator Carjump (sold to Peugeot Renault/Groupe PSA), and connected mobility provider Vimcar.

In addition, UVC Partners has ties to the recently launched Munich-based Digital Hub Mobility, a cooperation between the German government and industry players such as Audi, BMW, Daimler, IBM, Infineon, and Facebook.