BMW is working with LiDAR company Innoviz to make self-driving cars

BMW has already made clear its intent to launch self-driving cars by 2021. Now, the automaker has decided on solid-state LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors and computer vision tech from startup Innoviz to enable its Level 3 – 5 autonomous vehicles to “see” their surroundings. For clarity, level 3 involves highly automated driving, level four is highly automated while level five is entirely autonomous, which means a human couldn’t intervene even if they wanted to.

LiDAR sensors, which use lasers to help self-driving cars figure out how to navigate, are usually quite bulky and constantly spinning on the roof of the car. The solid-state LiDAR sensor from Innoviz is much smaller and doesn’t spin. Next year, the InnovizOne will available as a built-in device beginning next year.

It’s not clear what LiDAR BMW was using in its previous testing (we’re asking), but BMW’s venture funding had previously invested in LiDAR company Blackmore Sensors and Analytics. Moving forward, the plan is to integrate Innoviz’s technologies into the Intel-Mobileye platform for the purposes of testing and mass production. BMW has already been working with Intel and Mobileeye around autonomous driving.

In addition to LiDAR sensors, Innoviz brings object detection (people, cars, trucks, bikes, lane markings), tracking, classification and other functionality to BMW. This partnership also includes collaboration with auto industry supplier Magna, which participated in a $65 million Series B round in Innoviz last September.

“Beyond that, our LiDAR technology can also apply to additional market applications in need of advanced sensing technology, such as mapping, fleets & robotaxis, security and surveillance, industrial automation, logistics and more, an Innoviz spokesperson said in a statement. “Right now our focus is on the automotive industry, but we haven’t ruled out other areas for future development.”

In March, Lyft announced a partnership with Magna to help get its self-driving tech into various automakers, as well as implement the ride-hailing service into future autonomous cars. So, let’s do some math here. (Lyft + Magna) + (Innoviz + Magna) + (BMW + Innoviz/Magna) could equal Lyft integration inside BMW autonomous cars and/or BMW launching a ride-hailing service using Lyft’s technology.