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Vayyar nabs $109M for its 4D radar tech, which detects and tracks images while preserving privacy

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The future of the connected home, connected car and connected everything will have a lot of imaging technology at the center of it: sensors to track the movement of people and things will be a critical way for AI brains to figure out what to do next. Now, with a large swing toward more data protection — in part a reaction to the realization of just how much information about us is being picked up — we’re starting to see some interesting solutions emerge that can still provide that imaging piece, but with privacy in mind. Today one of the startups building such solutions is announcing a big round of funding.

Vayyar, an Israeli startup that builds radar-imaging chips and sensors, as well as the software that reads and interprets the resulting images used in automotive and IoT applications (among others) — providing accurate information about what is going on a specific place, even if it’s behind a wall or another object, but without the kind of granular detail that would actually be able to personally identify someone — has picked up a Series D of $109 million, money it will use to expand the range of applications it can cover and to double down on key markets like the U.S. and China.

From what I understand from sources close to the deal, this round is being done at a valuation “north” of $600 million, which is a big step up on the company’s valuation in its C-round in 2017, which was at around $245 million post-money, according to PitchBook data.

Part of the reason for the big multiple is because the company already has a number of big customers on its books, including the giant automotive supplier Valeo and what Raviv Melamed — Vayyar’s co-founder, CEO and chairman — described to me as a “major Silicon Valley company” working on using Vayyar’s technology in its smart home business.

I was going to write that the funding is notable for the large size, but it feels these days that $100 million is the new $50 million (which is to say, it’s becoming a lot more common to raise so much). What’s perhaps more distinctive is the source of the funding. This Series D is being led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, with Regal Four (an investment partner of KDT) and existing investors including Battery Ventures, Bessemer Ventures, ICV, ITI, WRVI Capital and Claltech all also participating. The total raised by the startup now stands at $188 million.

Koch Disruptive Technologies is the venture arm of Koch Industries, the multinational giant that works across a range of oil and gas, manufacturing, ranching and other industries. It was founded by Fred Koch, the father of the Koch brothers, Charles and the late David, the longtime owners who are mostly known in popular culture for their strong support of right-wing politicians, businesses and causes. It’s an image that hasn’t really helped the VC arm, and its partners seem to be trying to downplay it these days.

Putting that to one side, the Vayyar investment has a lot of potential applicability across the many industries where Koch has holdings.

“Advancements in imaging sensors are vital as technology continues to disrupt all aspects of society,” said Chase Koch, president of Koch Disruptive Technologies. “We see incredible potential in combining Vayyar’s innovative technology and principled leadership team with Koch’s global reach and capabilities to create breakthroughs in a wide range of industries.”

Over the last several years, the startup has indeed been working on a number of ways of applying its technology on behalf of clients, who in turn develop ways of productising it. There are a few exceptions where Vayyar itself has built ways of using its tech in direct consumer products: for example, the Walabot, a hand-held sensor that works in conjunction with a normal smartphone to give people the ability to, say, detect if a pipe is leaking behind a wall.

But for the most part, Melamed says that its focus has been on building technology for others to use. These have, for example, included in-car imaging sensors that can detect who is sitting where and what is going on inside the vehicle, useful for example for making sure that no one is dangerously blocking an airbag, or accidentally setting off a seatbelt alarm when not actually in a seat, or (in the case of a sleeping baby) being left behind on accident, creating potentially dire outcomes.

Regulations will make having better safety detection a must over time, Melamed noted, and more immediately, “By 2022-2023 it will be a must for all new cars to be able to detect [the presence of babies getting left behind when you leave the car] if you want to have a five-star safety rating.”

The focus (no pun intended) on privacy is a somewhat secondary side-effect of what Vayyar has built to date, but that same swing of regulation is likely to continue to put it into the fore, and make it as much of a feature as the imaging detection itself.

Vayyar is not the only company using radar to build up better imaging intelligence: Entropix, Photonic Vision, Noitom Technology and Aquifi and ADI are among the many companies also building imaging solutions based on the same kind of technology. Melamed says that this is where the company’s software and algorithms help it to stand out.

“I think when you look at what we have developed for example for cars, these guys are far behind and it will take some time to close the gap,” he added.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/20/vayyar-nabs-109m-for-its-4d-radar-tech-which-detects-and-tracks-images-while-preserving-privacy/

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Mercedes-Benz EQS Interior Teaser Lets Designers Explain The Cabin

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JLR Cancels Electric Road Rover, Jaguar J-Pace Likely Dead As Well

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Uber spins out delivery robot startup as Serve Robotics

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Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, has officially spun out as an independent company called Serve Robotics.

TechCrunch reported in January that a deal was being shopped to investors.

Serve Robotics, a name taken from the autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates X, has raised seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Neo. Other investors included Uber as well as Lee Jacobs and Cyan Banister’s Long Journey Ventures, Western Technology Investment, Scott Banister, Farhad Mohit and Postmates co-founders Bastian Lehmann and Sean Plaice.

Serve Robotics didn’t share specifics of the funding except to confirm that the round, which will be a Series A, has not been completed yet. Funding a spin out can occur in phases, with the first tranche used for the initial launch and the rest of the round closing once IP has been transferred.

The new company will be run by Ali Kashani, who headed up Postmates X. Other co-founders include Dmitry Demeshchuk, the first engineer who joined the Serve team at Postmates and MJ Chun, who previously led product at Anki, has been heading up product strategy at Serve. The company is launching with 60 employees with headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada.

Serve Robotics Uber Postmates

Image Credits: Serve Robotics

“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” said Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. “Over the next two decades, new mobility robots will enter every aspect of our lives–first moving food, then everything else.”

Postmates’ exploration into sidewalk delivery bots began in earnest in 2017 after the company quietly acquired Kashani’s startup Lox Inc. As head of Postmates X, Kashani set out to answer the question: why move two-pound burritos with two-ton cars? Postmates revealed its first Serve autonomous delivery bot in December 2018. A second generation — with an identical design but different lidar sensors and few other upgrades — emerged in summer 2019 ahead of its planned commercial launch in Los Angeles.

The company’s mission to design, develop, and operate delivery robots specialized in navigating sidewalks will continue, albeit with an eye towards expansion. Serve will continue its delivery operations in Los Angeles. It plans to ramp up research and development in the San Francisco Bay area and expand its market reach through new partnerships.

The spin out is consistent with Uber’s aim to narrow the focus of its business on ride-hailing and delivery in a push towards profitability. This strategy began to take shape after Uber’s public market debut in May 2019 and accelerated last year as the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on the ride-hailing company. Two years ago, Uber had enterprises across the transportation landscape, from ride-hailing and micromobility to logistics, public transit, food delivery and futuristic bets like autonomous vehicles and air taxis. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has dismantled the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach as he pushes the company toward profitability.

In 2020, Uber offloaded shared scooter and bike unit Jump in a complex deal with Lime, sold a stake worth $500 million in its logistics spinoff Uber Freight and rid itself of its autonomous vehicle unit Uber ATG and its air taxi play Uber Elevate. Aurora acquired Uber ATG in a deal that had a similar structure to the Jump-Lime transaction. Aurora didn’t pay cash for Uber ATG. Instead, Uber handed over its equity in ATG and invested $400 million into Aurora, which gave it a 26% stake in the combined company. In a similarly crafted deal, Uber Elevate was sold to Joby Aviation in December.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/02/uber-spins-out-delivery-robot-startup-as-serve-robotics/

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The 2022 C40 Recharge will be Volvo’s first leather-free EV

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Volvo is going all in on going green, the company announced during an online press event on Tuesday. The car maker pledged to produce nothing but electrics by 2030, go fully carbon neutral by 2040 and to begin selling its vehicles virtually — startin… Checkout PrimeXBT
Source: https://www.engadget.com/the-2022-c-40-recharge-will-be-volvos-first-leather-free-ev-161142216.html

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