Cathay Capital invested through its Cartech Fund in Benewake, a high-tech company developing and manufacturing solid-state LiDARs. Benewake has achieved mass production LiDARs and diversified application scenarios with broad market prospects. This B1 financing round was led by Cathay Capital, with PhoenixTree Capital being the financial adviser, and will be mainly used to accelerate Benewake’s R&D of solid-state LiDARs and mass production of automotive products.
‘Eye’ of Autonomous Driving —— LiDAR
The LiDAR industry is under rapid revolution: on the one hand, the tech-path of solid-state LiDARs is diverging while the technology of traditional mechanical LiDARs is maturing, and on the other hand, as expectations regarding practical solutions of autonomous driving are rising, the capital market is paying greater attention to solid-state LiDAR companies.
Most autonomous vehicles in test on the market are currently equipped with mechanical rotating LiDARs. Yet, due to their physical rotation characteristics, mechanical rotating LiDARs inevitably require time-consuming calibration before leaving factory which makes it impossible to achieve mass production and lower their prices. As for solid-state LiDARs, since no rotating component is involved, they are smaller and can be easily integrated into cars so the system reliability is improved while the cost is reduced. Solid-state LiDARs are becoming the new trend in LiDAR development and it should also enable the mass production of a core component in autonomous driving.
The tech-path of solid-state LiDARs is diversified. The well-known technologies are Flash LiDARs, MEMS Vibrating-Mirror LiDARs and Optical Phased Array LiDARs. From a technological perspective and taking into account the possibility of mass production, Flash LiDAR is the most mature technology. A recent report from IHS Markit shows that the demand on the LiDAR market will increase from USD 230 million to USD 2.5 billion by 2026 and that Flash LiDARs will represent the largest portion of up to USD 1.3 billion. Flash LiDARs are exactly the core field in which Benewake is strengthening their technology. In fact, Benewake has been committed to turning costly LiDARs into low-cost products with capabilities of mass-production from the very beginning. With its state-of-the-art technology and robust system integration capabilities, Benewake is reaching its goal and building its unique technical barriers.
The strength of mass production of Benewake
Facing fierce competition on the LiDAR market, not only Benewake has a leading technology but the company also has production capabilities. Its infrared environment sensing LiDAR, which is based on the ToF (Time of Flight) technology (DE-LiDAR series), is sold one hundred US dollars only and is already mass-produced. It has been sold in Europe, the USA and Japan, and could be applied to multiple scenarios like autonomous driving, intelligent warehouse, AGV, etc. What is more, Benewake currently has partnerships with Ninebot and Quicktron. Its single-point LiDAR (TF02 and TFmini) also fills the blank left by common sensors and is used in diversified applications like agricultural drones, outdoor obstacle avoidance of robots, parking lot detection, smart barrier and automatic vending machines.
Yuan LI, CEO of Benewake, said: "Flash solid-state technology is the trend of LiDARs development. It is THE technical route leading to mass production. It is also the direction that we have been progressing on. We are very pleased to see that our vision and technology has been recognized by Cathay Capital. We believe that not only this investment will bring us capital but it will also make us benefit from the strategic resources assembled by Cathay Capital such as Tier-1 automotive suppliers ( Valeo is one of Cathay Cartech fund’s LPs for instance) and OEMs. These resources will help Benewake provide stable and reliable LiDAR products to automotive companies and promote the development of autonomous driving. We also look forward to talents both in China and overseas to work together and advance the development of LiDARs."
Mingpo CAI, President of Cathay Capital, added: "Following the increasing understanding of LiDARs in the industry, they are widely used in the 4.0 industry, IoT, smart components, smart cities and other fields. With the exploding demand for autonomous driving, more capital and resources will be invested in LiDARs and the industry will take-off soon. Benewake focuses on R&D and production of LiDARs, has a leading technology and excellent productization capabilities. Cathay Capital has abundant industrial resources in the automotive industry and keeps cooperative relations with many leading companies. We will continue to use our own advantages to help companies dock resources and provide a solid backing to their future developments."