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Korean LiDAR Startup SOS Lab Raises $6M

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Korean LiDAR Startup SOS Lab Raises $6M

SOS Lab, a Korean startup company that develops LiDAR equipment for future autonomous vehicles, has completed a round of venture funding worth around $6 million.

Founded in 2016 and based at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), the firm says it has backing from Korea-headquartered global giants like Mando the automotive components supplier and the investor wing of car manufacturer Hyundai.

Headed by CEO Jiseong Jeong, SOS Lab says the cash inflow will allow them to expand beyond the domestic Korean market as it continues developing its compact sensor units aimed at garnering more investments. While the series A round was led by Mando, other investors that participated include KDB Capital, Mirae Asset, SL Investment, WM Investment, BA Partners, RyukyungPSG Asset Management, and Future Play, while SOS Lab is said to be the first startup to receive backing from the recently formed Hancom Investment.

Jiseong Jeong presented  details of the the company’s “hybrid” lidar system, known as SL-1 hybrid LiDAR during a rapid fire session, and led an in-depth roundtable discussion about the potential of hybrid scanning technology for safe, affordable, self-driving cars  held in Brussels, Belgium, last month.

The system combines the attributes of a conventional motor scanning system with a MEMS-based mirror and is said to offer a range of 200 meters albeit viewed critically for true driving automation. SOS Lab is also touting the product as providing high performance at a much lower cost than contemporary comparable time-of-flight lidar sensors on the market.

SOS Lab is not only targeting the automotive sector but also targeting factory automation and robotics deployment  with its medium-range GL-3 sensor (quoted as up to 50 meters) scanning lidar, as also with its short-range TL-3 (up to 5 meters)  which is a solid-state design intended for applications in security and subway doors. Apart from its head office within the GIST campus, SOS Lab has expanded its offices in Seoul and at the Silicon Valley arm of the Korean Innovation Center in San Jose, California.

In the beginning of this year French market research analysts at Yole Développement predicted the global market for lidar systems in cars and other vehicles to be worth $5 billion by 2023. Almost every major auto maker seems to be developing programs involving lidar sensors aimed at providing high-level autonomy. While Velodyne and Quanergy were among the first to attract significant venture capital in the emerging sector and several others the likes of Luminar, AEye, Canada-based LeddarTech have followed in their footsteps. Similarly a host of Israeli startups are negotiating tie-ups with major auto makers and technology companies more recently.

“SOS Lab’s vision is to become a lidar company that keeps ahead of the competition through excellent performance and affordable price points,” said Jeong in a release announcing his participation in the AutoSens event. “We strive to innovate unique solutions to the problems combating the industry today in order to properly address consumer concerns and meet worldwide demand.” He further added.

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