Hitachi invests in lidar tech for autonomous plant

Hitachi Construction Machinery has joined in a $31m (£22.5m) funding round to support a Sydney, Australia-based start-up in developing its breakthrough lidar technology to chart a path to level four autonomous diggers and other machinery.

Hitachi’s investment comes after two years of testing Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan sensors in real-world environments. The cash will be used to expand Baraja’s team and accelerate the development of its lidar for automotive-grade use in heavy equipment.

Baraja’s lidar technology 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. 

Baraja says it is more tolerant to factors like heat, shock and vibration that hinder traditional lidar systems. It lets users adjust scanning resolution to the changing environment the way humans adjust focus, giving better visibility 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,” said Federico Collarte, Baraja chief executive and co-founder. “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.”

Hitachi Construction Machinery chief technology officer Hideshi Fukumoto said: “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.”

He added the investment would expand its application to civil engineering and construction.

Founded in 2016, Baraja began in the garage of co-founder Federico Collarte, and now has over 100 employees and offices in Sydney, San Francisco and Shanghai.

Image: Baraja says its lidar system is more tolerant to factors like heat, shock and vibration.

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