Take a dollop of machine learning, a handful of radar sensors and a market that is clamoring for autonomous cars not mowing down hordes of pedestrians, and you’ve got yourself a particularly frothy fundraising environment. Hot on the heels from the $10 million round Spartan Radar announced in August, the company today announced it snagged another $15 million from investors led by Prime Movers Lab. Additional investors include 8VC and Mac VC.
Not half shabby for a company that didn’t exist two years ago — it was founded in 2020. The company is putting itself in the mix in the intersection between the car’s radar and its self-driving tech. It argues that the radar technology on current and next-generation autonomous vehicles (AV) is pretty decent, but that the car often doesn’t know what to make of what the radar “sees,” and ends up making mistakes in the process.
“The automotive industry’s pivot to lower levels of automation makes radar more attractive than lidar,” Spartan Radar founder and CEO Nathan Mintz maintains. “While showing lots of initial promise, lidar is failing to live up to all the hype, but the need for high-resolution systems hasn’t gone away. The processing power finally exists to utilize advanced algorithms like super-resolution in real time to make radar a far better option for automakers.”
The company calls its product Biomimetic Radar and claims that it can mimic human perception processes for enhanced focus and context. It says its algorithms dramatically speed up processing and reduce radar’s historic shortcomings, including lower resolution and false detections. This, in turn, clears the way for ADAS level 2 and beyond in terms of safety and commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles.
The company’s software can be deployed on almost all existing radar systems, and while the company didn’t comment on any specific deals it has in the pipeline, the two rapid-fire funding rounds would suggest there are customers waiting in the wings.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing evidence that lidar-based systems can behave like the distracted drivers they were intended to replace. Spartan’s radar systems are a leap forward in autonomous vehicle technology, bringing AVs and ADAS systems to where they need to be for the needs of the industry today,” said David Siminoff, general partner at Prime Movers Lab, who will be joining the company’s board.
“After billions of dollars in investments and several AV companies going public, the industry is finally ready to move beyond R&D to commercialize at scale in defined use-cases like last-mile delivery, trucking and robotaxi. OEMs and AV developers need safe, robust sensor solutions that are ready to go to market next year and we’re prepared to meet that need,” Mintz said.