Sense Photonics raises $26M to expand depth perception for robots, self-driving cars

Sense Photonics architecture

Sense Photonics’ modular lidar architecture allows for separation of the emitter from the receiver for use in vehicles. Source: Sense Photonics

DURHAM, N.C. — Sense Photonics Inc., which is building lidar and 3D sensors for autonomous vehicles, industrial robotics, and other applications, announced today that it has closed a $26 million Series A funding round.

Sense Photonics said that its core technology, which is protected by over 200 patents, is designed from the ground up to meet rigorous performance, cost, and safety requirements. It is based on a unique “flash” solid-state architecture with no moving parts that do not scan at all. This modular approach enables high resolution across wide horizontal and vertical fields of view without compromising frame rate, said the company, which was an exhibitor at last week’s Robotics Summit & Expo.

In addition, Sense Photonics’ camera-inspired design is highly manufacturable and enables small, customizable form factors critical for seamless integration into vehicles. It claimed that it is building the world’s best 3D sensors and software solutions.

VC vote of confidence

Sense Photonics has offices in Research Triangle Park, N.C.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Edinburgh, U.K. It said it has developed partnerships with leading automotive and robotics customers and is backed by leading venture capital firms.

The round was co-led by Acadia Woods and Congruent Ventures, with participation from a number of other investors, including Prelude Ventures, Samsung Ventures and Shell Ventures.

“We are very appreciative of this strong vote of investor confidence in our team and our technology,” said Scott Burroughs, CEO of Sense Photonics. “The demand we’ve encountered — even while operating in ‘stealth mode’ — has been extraordinary. We look forward to announcing our first products over the next few months and ramping up volume production.”

“Congruent is excited to work with Sense Photonics and its outstanding leadership team to help bring innovation to the autonomous vehicle and robotics space,” said Josh Posamentier, managing partner at Congruent Ventures. “The technology that the Sense Photonics team is working on is years ahead of the competition, and we think they are poised to disrupt multiple markets.”

Sense Photonics raises $26M to expand depth perception for robots, self-driving cars

Sense Photonics makes its own lasers so it can provide high-powered, long-range flash lidar. Source: Sense Photonics

Samsung Ventures said it invested in Sense Photonics because it believes Sense Photonics’ proprietary laser and sensor technologies represent a significant innovation in fundamental lidar technology that could have an important impact on automotive and industrial 3D sensing in the future.

Sense Photonics said it plans to use the Series A funding for continued development and commercialization of its technology and the transition to high volume manufacturing. The company is currently in early sales with select early-engagement partners in both the automotive and industrial markets and plans to announce general availability of its first commercial product later this year.