On April 8th, San Francisco based Sense Photonics, a provider of solid state, 3D Flash LiDAR sensing solutions, announced that Shauna McIntyre was named CEO. Previously, McIntyre was employed at Alphabet, the parent company of Google, Nest, and other ventures, as the Program Lead for Google Automotive Services and Google Map’s automotive program.
- Lithia Motors Board Member – McIntyre is also on the Board of Directors of Lithia Motors which she joined in May, 2019. Publicly held Lithia (NYSE: LAD), the 3rd largest automotive retailer in the United States, had FY 2018 revenues of approximately US $13B.
- Burroughs Now CIO – Scott Burroughs, Sense Photonics co-founder and CEO since the company’s founding in 2016, becomes President and Chief Innovation Officer.
“Sense Photonics’ primary value proposition – namely, high performance delivery of quality data at low cost – is especially well suited to automotive safety systems such as collision avoidance and lane departure warning systems, along with autonomous driving in general.”
- Innovative LiDAR and Sensing Technology – Most LiDAR solutions, both mechanical and solid state, scan with a beam or column of light across the scene very quickly, but in a piecemeal fashion, creating an image pixel-by-pixel, then finding the range of objects and surroundings by measuring the light’s time of flight. Sense Photonics, and a few other companies, offer 3D ‘Flash’ LiDAR solutions where laser emitters illuminate a whole scene in one flash pulse, capturing the entire frame at once. Objects in the frame backscatter the photons, which are collected by an array of light detectors. Consisting of rows and columns of pixels, the detectors image location like 2D digital cameras, but are also able to capture 3D depth and intensity data. The result is a high-resolution 3D point cloud.
Sense Photonics proprietary laser and sensing solution provides advantages over both standard LiDAR solutions and other 3D Flash LiDAR providers. According to Sense Photonics representatives, their patented and proprietary laser array and 3D receiver provides for an ultra-wide field of view, and the images themselves do not suffer from motion distortion. It is also possible to combine their 3D Flash LiDAR with 2D cameras to create a 2D textural image overlaid with 3D depth imagery. Sense Photonics also produces their own advanced laser emitters, which according to the company, overcomes earlier drawbacks to Flash LiDAR systems – namely, high cost, along with limited range and resolution.
- Flush With Funding – Sense Photonics received a $26M Series A round in June 2019, a strong vote of confidence from investors and clear indication that the company was more than a great idea backed by equally great leadership team. The investment provides the company with a couple years of runway to further develop its 3D Flash LiDAR solutions and grow the team.
- Products Out – In October 2019, and fast on the on the heels of their $26M A round, Sense Photonics began accepting preorders for its Sense One Solid-State Flash LiDAR, an industrial-grade 3D Flash LiDAR system. Available in three customizable versions – the Sense 30, Sense 60, and Sense 75 – the Sense One systems are priced at approximately $3,000. According to Sense Photonics, compared to competing industrial sensing solutions, the Sense One systems offer greater sensing range and system durability, along with a very competitive pricing.
In January 2020, Sense Photonics formally launched Osprey, a ‘modular’, high-resolution 3D Flash LiDAR solution for automotive applications. Two version are available. The $3,200 units consist of two components, a laser emitter and a separate sensing unit (the 3D receiver). According to Sense Photonics, splitting their 3D Flash LiDAR system in this manner providers for greater installation simplicity and flexibility. The company reports that the Osprey system provides for a 80 degree x 75degree field of view, and has a range of 15 meters.
- Automotive Inroads and Accelerating Growth – McIntyre brings to Sense Photonics a boatload of automotive and industrial knowledge and expertise, along with a substantial Rolodex of contacts. Her automotive sector background is key. Sense Photonics’ primary value proposition – namely, high performance delivery of quality data at low cost – is especially well suited to automotive safety systems such as collision avoidance and lane departure warning systems, along with autonomous driving in general.
Engaging with existing automotive sector partners and securing new ones is surely on the new CEO’s short list, along with executing on the company’s volume production and go-to-market strategies. Previous to McIntyre’s hire, Sense Photonics representatives indicated that the company was engaged with a number of automotive sector companies, including a Tier 1 automotive supplier and multiple automotive OEMs. LiDAR startups have relatively high burn rates, so you can be sure that securing additional rounds of funding is also top of mind for McIntyre. Prior to McIntyre coming on board, Sense Photonics representatives indicated that the company would be seeking a Series B investment round in 2020.
Dan Kara is VP, Robotics at WTWH Media. He can be reached at dkara[@]wtwhmedia.com.