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Baidu and BMW-backed Lunwave Completes Seed Funding Round, Raises $5M

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【Summary】The Arizona-based company specializes in external sensors that can be used to boost the accuracy of autonomous driving maneuvers through enhanced detection.

Michael Cheng    Sep 27, 2018 6:00 AM PT
Baidu and BMW-backed Lunwave Completes Seed Funding Round, Raises $5M

Companies developing sensors for driverless cars are in great demand, as automotive businesses race to build fully autonomous vehicles. A self-driving startup that has recently attracted several high-caliber investment firms is Lunewave.

The Arizona-based company specializes in external sensors that can be used to boost the accuracy of autonomous driving maneuvers through enhanced detection. Earlier this month, Lunewave completed a successful seed funding round, which raised a total of $5 million. The startup's products utilize 3D printing to develop special lenses found in driverless cars, 5G communication modules and drones.

Seed Funding Round

Led by Texas-based Fraser McCombs Capital (FMC), the business welcomed a handful of investors via the seed funding round, including Baidu Ventures, BMWi Ventures, Lighthouse Ventures and Shanda Capital. Lunwave plans to use the funds to expand operations, engage in hiring programs (at the moment, there are 10 people working for the company) and continue development efforts. Mark Norman, Managing Partner at FMC, will join the establishment as a board member.  

To date, the startup has raised over $5 million, spread over two funding activities. A part of the total raised funds ($1.25 million) came from the National Science Foundation, as a non-dilutive government grant. The rest of the funds, roughly $3.75 million, was derived from the seed round.

Lunewave plans to start pilot programs for its self-driving sensors. The startup did not disclose the details for its trials. So far, we know that the business has released a ‘minimum viable product' last year and participated in the UrbanX accelerator.

"Lunewave has demonstrated the power of their product and their ability to innovate in the autonomous vehicle space in a way that offers significant value to global OEMs," said Micah Kotch, Managing Director of URBAN-X, in a statement.

3D Printing and Automotive Sensors

Lunewave's sensors are suitable for use in numerous industries. However, it will first focus on autonomous vehicles and wireless communication. The startup believes it can address the current limitations that plague existing driverless sensors available on the market today.

According to the business, its automotive devices are capable of wider field of views, compared to traditional LIDAR sensors, due to its lens that incorporates Luneburg antenna infrastructure from the 1940s. The circular units are equipped with a full, 360-degree scope and can function when exposed to rough weather. Additionally, it is capable of replacing multiple external sensors on self-driving vehicles.

"LIDAR right now is at the end of the day because of its short wavelength. It does not function as well in poor weather conditions. Penetration of shorter wave lengths would be very difficult in poor weather conditions," said John Xin, Co-founder and CEO of the startup.

Lunewave plans to leverage 3D printing to streamline manufacturing and production. Based on the startup's calculations, one 3D printer could generate 100 units (lab version). An industrial 3D printer has the potential to produce 1,000 units.

The technology behind Lunewave's sensors stemmed from Xin's experience in the defense sector. Before starting the business with his brother, the head of the startup worked for Raytheon and Rockwell Scientific.

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