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LiDAR specialist Baraja raises USD31m

Baraja has raised USD31 million (USD) in a new funding round to accelerate development of its breakthrough Spectrum-Scan LiDAR technology. 

Baraja’s LiDAR sensors are higher performance and more reliable than legacy LiDAR systems, and enable the safe rollout of autonomous vehicles sooner. The latest capital raising was led by Blackbird Ventures and includes new strategic investment from Hitachi Construction Machinery.    

Hitachi’s strategic investment comes after a two-year partnership to validate Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan sensors in real-world scenarios that prove the technology’s reliability in harsh environments. The investment will support an expanded rollout of the sensor in mining, construction & industrial vehicle use cases, and help road-test the products for future autonomous vehicles.

Additional participants in the capital raising include returning investor Main Sequence Ventures, the venture arm founded by CSIRO, alongside new investors Regal Funds Management, Perennial Value Management, superannuation fund HESTA and InterValley Ventures, an Australian based venture capital fund anchored by the Mizuho Financial Group via its affiliate New Frontier Capital Management.

The new capital will be used to expand Baraja’s team and accelerate the development of LiDAR technology for automotive-grade use in self-driving vehicles. Baraja has validated the technology in numerous settings through partnerships with Tier 1 suppliers, mining operators and researchers such as Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and Taiwan’s renowned Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI) intelligent mobility division.

Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan LiDAR is built to provide the long-term reliability, resolution, range and automotive-grade features needed to reach Level 4 autonomous driving.

The pioneering technology completely rethinks environment scanning for autonomous vehicles, exploiting the wavelength properties of light to steer lasers through a prism in order to better detect objects at range. Spectrum-Scan technology is more tolerant to factors that have hindered traditional LiDAR systems such as heat, shock and vibration. The result is a more precise, more affordable LiDAR system featuring long-term reliability and exceptional resolution, deployable in more environments, from highways and city streets to mines and ports.

Spectrum-Scan LiDAR technology gives Baraja’s partners the ability to instantly adjust and adapt scanning resolution to the changing environment, similar to how humans can control their visual focus. This leads to better safety by improving obstacle detection for self-driving vehicles in a range of settings.

“Legacy LiDAR systems have been hampered by poor performance with limits on range, resolution and reliability,” says Federico Collarte, CEO and Co-Founder of Baraja. “Our Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR has proven reliability in the field, which has been recognised by partners such as Hitachi — one of the world’s most innovative machine manufacturers. This latest capital and the partnership with Hitachi will also help us to advance our mission to help make self-driving vehicles an everyday reality.”

Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan technology was invented by Federico Collarte and co-founder Cibby Pulikkaseril, telecommunications industry veterans who used their photonics and fibre optic expertise to create a LiDAR system that uses the same principles in an autonomous vehicle setting.

Returning investor Blackbird Ventures has doubled down on its previous investment, showcasing its continued support for Baraja’s superior technology capabilities and product roadmap. 

“Countless LiDAR makers have made promises and set deadlines they have failed to meet due to one fundamental issue: legacy LiDAR doesn’t work the way it needs to,” says Rick Baker, Blackbird Ventures Co-Founder and board director at Baraja.  “Baraja founders Federico and Cibby have taken a truly different approach with Spectrum-ScanTM that addresses and solves the fundamental challenges others have faced out of the lab and provides a clear roadmap to automotive-grade LiDAR in the coming years.”

Hideshi Fukumoto Vice President, Executive Officer, and CTO, Hitachi Construction Machinery; President of Research & Development Group; and President of Client Solutions Group, says: “Spectrum-Scan LiDAR is a must-have technology providing better autonomous sensing solutions for mining customers who demand increasingly higher safety and production efficiency. We are delighted to be working with Baraja, a company with leading-edge technology in this field. 

“More than just an investment relationship, we expect that this relationship will lead to technological improvements and accelerated commercialisation for both parties in areas such as terrain measurement and obstacle detection. Through this investment, Hitachi Construction Machinery will 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. We will also strengthen our open innovation initiatives in the digital field, such as this one.”

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