To attempt to accelerate the safe rollout of autonomous vehicles, Australian lidar maker Baraja has received a $31 million ($40M AUS) investment from Hitachi Construction Machinery for further development of Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan lidar technology.
Led by Blackbird Ventures together with Hitachi, Main Sequence Ventures, Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, Regal Funds Management, Perennial Value Management, superannuation fund HESTA and InterValley Ventures, this investment in Baraja comes with a twist.
While discussions about autonomous vehicles are mostly focused on commercial or personal vehicles, Hitachi’s interest is to bring Baraja’s technology to mining, construction & industrial vehicle use cases. Through this investment, Hitachi wants to accelerate the improvement of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) and the practical application of remote and autonomous operation of ultra-large hydraulic excavators, as well as expand its application to the civil engineering and construction fields.
“Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR is a must-have technology providing better autonomous sensing solutions for mining customers who demand increasingly higher safety and production efficiency,” Hideshi Fukumoto Vice President, Executive Officer, and CTO at Hitachi, said. “More than just an investment relationship, we expect this will lead to technological improvements and accelerated commercialization for both parties in areas such as terrain measurement and obstacle detection. Through this investment, Hitachi will expand its application to the civil engineering and construction fields, and strengthen our open innovation initiatives in the digital field.”
Pioneered by Baraja in 2015, the Baraja Spectrum-Scan lidar uses wavelength-tunable lasers coupled with prism-like optics, to provide users with a high-resolution beam-steering solution with no moving parts in one dimension. This means it can dynamically adjust the resolution in key regions of interest, mimicking the abilities of the human eye by instantly changing areas of focus based on the situation. Additionally, the sensor can detect 10% reflectivity objects at more than 200 meters, create high-resolution, long-range point clouds, and operates at a 1550 nm wavelength.
With this investment, Baraja will expand its team and accelerate the development of its lidar technology for automotive-grade use in self-driving vehicles in general. Its technology has already been validated in various use cases through partnerships with Tier 1 suppliers, mining operators, and researchers such as CSIRO, and Taiwan’s renowned Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI) intelligent mobility division, and already provides long-term reliability, resolution, range and automotive-grade features needed to reach Level 4 autonomous driving.
“Legacy Lidar systems have been hampered by poor performance with limits on range, resolution, and field of view,” Federico Collarte, CEO of Baraja, added. “
Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan Lidar technology delivers the reliability that’s proven in the field by partners such as Hitachi Construction Machinery – one of the world’s most innovative machine manufacturers. Both this latest capital and our ongoing partnership with Hitachi Construction Machinery will help us advance our mission of helping make self-driving vehicles an everyday reality sooner.”