Seoul Robotics has taken a divergent path on the road to commercializing autonomous vehicles. Instead of developing and integrating the entire self-driving system, including sensors, into a vehicle, Seoul is turning to the surrounding infrastructure to do some of the heavy lifting.
And his contrarian approach attracted a new group of investors and $25 million in venture capital. The Series B funding was led by KB Investment, according to Seoul Robotics.
“Instead of equipping the vehicles themselves with sensors, we’re equipping the surrounding infrastructure with sensors,” Seoul Robotics vice president of products and solutions Jerone Floor said in August, when the company signed on. associated with NVIDIA.
The company’s autonomous vehicle infrastructure platform called Level 5 control tower (or LV5 CTRL TWR) with its branded Sensr software, collects information from sensors such as cameras and lidar (light detection and ranging radar) and other data stored in the cloud, then sends it to vehicles.
According to Seoul Robotics CEO Hanbin Lee, the LV5 CTRL TWR uses automatic transmission and in-vehicle connectivity to maneuver them autonomously without requiring hardware.
Seoul Robotics says its LV5 CTRL TWR helps provide information about the surrounding environment and chooses the safest path for the vehicle.
The infrastructure platform manages a car’s functions such as lane keeping and braking assistance via its technology, called Autonomy via Infrastructure (ATI) and a V2X communication system (vehicle to everything), which sends information from a vehicle to any surrounding infrastructure and other vehicles.
Seoul Robotics deployed its technology with BMW to test the pilot program of the German car with the new BMW 7 Series and the fully electric BMW i7 in July 2022.
Founded in 2017 by four co-founders, Seoul Robotics is now working with global manufacturers (OEMs) like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Qualcomm and LG Uplus to diversify the use of its system.
“We are currently in talks with approximately nine other global OEMs for partnerships,” Lee said.
Lee also said 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 suits their needs, which means customers can select services according to their needs and budget.
“While Sensr is still the backbone of our product offerings, including LV5 CTRL TWR, the types of solutions we offer are much more sophisticated compared to 2018,” Lee told TechCrunch. “We now offer three plug-and-play LiDAR Development Kits that include all the components needed to set up a 3D system for any organization.” Additionally, it provides solutions tailored to a specific application, such as pedestrian safety, rail obstacle detection and Level 5 autonomy, Lee continued.
Lee explained that the first LiDAR-based perception software was all developed by sensor manufacturers, and the software had to be tied to the hardware. “With this approach, the challenge was that each sensor had different strengths and weaknesses; some have a wide but short-range field of view, some have a narrow, long-range field of view,” Lee said. “It is also not possible to mix and match the sensors, in which we intervene.”
Last week, the company launched a feature that uses LiDAR and its Sensr software to detect and alert instances of wrong-way driving. According to Seoul Robotics, the Reverse Sensing feature is being rolled out on interstates and freeways in California, Florida, and Tennessee, as well as Europe and Asia.
With the latest funding, the startup plans to grow its team and expand Sensr’s applications to bring its automated vehicle technology to other potential partners in industries such as logistics (rental car fleets, trucking and automated valet systems), smart cities and security, says Lee. Other investors include Noh and Partners, Future Play, Korea Development Bank, Artesian and Access Ventures also participated in Series B.
The Seoul-headquartered company with offices in Munich, Calif., and Raleigh, raised $6 million in Series A in 2020.