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In April 2020, SOS LAB, Korea’s ‘LiDAR’ sensor startup company, secured series A+ investment of a total of USD $8 Million starting from a lead investment from Korea Development Bank (KDB), bringing the company’s total capital raised so far to USD $14 Million. It continued to attract investments after securing seed funding from ‘Future Play’, an accelerator for tech startups.
In addition, the participation of the IPO team of Yuanta Securities in the investment confirmed the value of the existence of SOS LAB as an emerging tech startup. Other investment companies such as A ventures, Emford Equity Partners, Ulmus Investment, KDB Capital, Shinhan Capital and Shinhan Financial Group also participated in the A+ round investment. Despite a decline in general economic activities due to COVID-19, SOS LAB successfully attracted the investment and it has now unveiled its plans for the commercialization of LiDAR.
1) The Value SOS LAB Brings to the Autonomous Vehicle Market
It is important for a vehicle to collect information in all sorts of situation that occurs while driving to truly realize autonomous driving technology. One of the elements needed to perform this is a sensor. However, there is no perfect sensor that allows uniform collection of information in all kinds of environments.
Because of such characteristics, different types of sensors must be used for autonomous driving so that they can complement each other. The most commonly used sensors are camera, radar and LiDAR sensors and among them, the LiDAR sensor, with its high resolution, collects information about the distance between a vehicle and an object and its shape in environments that a camera or a radar sensor cannot recognize.
Jiseong Jeong, the CEO of SOS LAB says: “In order to commercialize autonomous driving technology that is above level 3, the technology readiness level must be elevated so that the technology is safe enough for customers to use. One single error in judgement can lead to huge trouble and thus, safety is not a value that can be compromised in autonomous driving. Therefore, LiDAR sensors are absolutely necessary for advanced autonomous driving.
We dream of a future where everyone experiences safe mobility by having autonomous driving technologies applied to as many cars as possible. This is why we made commercialization of the car LiDAR sensor a top priority. However, there are limitations for commercialization when using mechanical scanning, which is the structure of the existing LiDAR sensors. This is why we secured the core technology for Solid-State LiDAR sensor that can satisfy both durability and performance while enabling mass production at low costs.”
2) Main Features (Seagate) of the Technology and the Company’s Potential (MOU, Partnership)
The CEO also says: “The implementation of Solid-State LiDAR is a must for car LiDAR commercialization. This is because there are advantages in terms of price and durability as it can be mass produced in small sizes and components. However, satisfying the fixed standard (size, amount of power, distance, etc.) is the challenge Solid-State LiDAR must overcome. SOS LAB finds the solution to the challenge through the core technology. Our new product can detect distant objects by delivering high power despite its small size, which is a beam-steering technology that does not have any moving parts.”
In fact, SOS LAB disclosed ML-1, the product which mounted the aforementioned technology, at CES 2020. It not only explains the low cost and mass production potential of the chip-shaped LiDAR but also showed its main features such as the ability to detect objects over long distances and high durability through the core technology.
Currently, the OEM and vehicle industry is planning to produce vehicles that have above level 3 autonomous driving technologies from 2021. SOS LAB said that the commercialization of the car LiDAR technology of the above plan cannot be performed simply by preparing the technology, and continued to explain about its plans for certification and production.
Firstly, SOS LAB stated that it has the production/sales experience of the existing LiDAR, and this accelerates the manufacturing of ML, a car LiDAR sensor. ML-1, which is LiDAR on Chip, is quickly being manufactured. We have already reviewed the technology and certification, and are currently at the stage of reviewing the manufacturing technologies. One of the strategies we have for production is ‘partnerships’.
Partnership is an important element in commercialization as it goes beyond securing product reliability and improving performance, to reduce the time taken for product development and manufacturing. The strategy is to quickly secure performance & certification and productivity through partnerships for each module and have SOS LAB play a central role with its core technology for the sensor’s design. SOS LAB stated that it has not only entered into an MOU with ON Semiconductor in January but also establishing partnerships with OEMs and electronic component manufacturers at home and abroad for the development of LiDAR. It showed strong confidence about the commercialization of car LiDAR sensor for 2021.
SOS LAB’s Future Business Plans (Roadmap)
The biggest impact SOS LAB has on the current market as a LiDAR startup is guiding it to the future where LiDAR-mounted driverless vehicles traverse every street. It aspires to make more people use safe technologies through the LiDAR technology, which is durable and can detect objects over long distances. Furthermore, SOS LAB is planning to move beyond the mobility market and expand its business to various different areas with its LiDAR technology. In fact, SOS LAB is currently supplying security solution LiDAR to customers like the Busan Port Authority (Korea) and it expressed its ambitions of expanding its areas of innovation as a company that offers ‘more than safety’ to markets for security, robotics, industry, smart city, etc.