Last week, Cepton Inc. announced the completion of its $100 million investment from longtime partner Koito Manufacturing Co. San Jose, Calif.-based Cepton said it plans to use the funding to continue its growth in the lidar market.
“We’re happy to announce the closing of the preferred stock investment as we deepen our partnership with Koito,” stated Dr. Jun Pei, co-founder and CEO of Cepton. “We plan to deploy the additional capital to help fund our next stage of growth, continue series production execution, and expand our collaboration efforts towards winning additional automotive OEM programs.”
Founded in 2016, Cepton provides lidar technology for advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (AV), smart cities and spaces, and industrial applications. The company said it is focused on mass-market commercialization of high-performance sensor systems.
Cepton earns recognition for latest lidars
With its patented systems, Cepton said it “aims to take lidar mainstream and achieve a balanced approach to performance, cost, and reliability, while enabling scalable and intelligent 3D perception solutions across industries.”
The company's Nova, a near-range, miniature lidar sensor for SAE Level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles, won the “Automotive Sensor Hardware Solution of the Year” award in the third-annual AutoTech Breakthrough Awards in October 2022.
In November, Cepton partnered with ALP.Lab GmbH and TE Connectivity on “Periscope,” a proof-of-concept project for an integrated system using lidars to widen drivers' field of view and warn them of unseen hazards.
Vista-X120 Plus shown at CES
At CES 2023 this month, Cepton unveiled its Vista-X120 Plus, which is designed for “intelligent, electrified, and software-defined” vehicles. The compact lidar provides “real-time adaptive 3D perception,” said the company, which won a CES Innovation Award in the “Vehicle Tech & Advanced Mobility” category.
At its booth, Cepton showed a Chevy Silverado and a Ford F-150 equipped with its sensors embedded in multiple locations, including headlamps, fog lamps, side mirrors, front grill, and tailgate. It claimed the Vista-X120 Plus offers Vista-X120 Plus offers a 500% increase in data rate, 30° wider field of view, more than 20% reduction in size, and 50% reduction in height.
“Developing cutting-edge lidar technology is one thing, but making it usable for consumer vehicles is another,” said Dr. Jun Pei. “Integrating lidars into everyday passenger cars is more challenging than it seems, with many factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as performance, sensor data fusion, system maintenance, and vehicle design.”
With a production size of 140 (W) x 30 (H) x 150 (D) mm (5.5 x 1.1 x 5.9 in.), the Vista-X120 Plus is ~50% slimmer and smaller than the competition, enabling greater OEM integration and placement options without disrupting vehicle appearance, claimed Cepton.
“The Vista-X120 Plus’ upgraded scanning mechanism enables extremely dense point clouds, while simplifying software algorithms for efficient sensor calibration and dynamic perception,” said Dr. Mark McCord co-founder and chief technology officer of Cepton. “Our proprietary ASIC chip enables optimal signal processing to further maximize lidar efficiency and performance.”
“The tunable ROI [region of interest] helps the vehicle perception better focus on potential hazards across different driving scenarios,” he added. “In spite of its significantly elevated performance and flexibility, the Vista-X120 Plus consumes less than 18 W of power, which is exceptional for long-range lidars and will be important for integration into electric vehicles.”
The Vista-X120 Plus also offers a 200 m (656 ft.) range at 10% reflectivity, angular resolutions of 0.05° (ROI) and 0.1° (non-ROI), a 120° x 25° field of view, and a data rate of over 6 million points per second.
The new sensor has a target price point below $500 for volume production. Building upon Cepton’s patented MMT technology, the Vista-X120 Plus features an opto-mechanical architecture to maximize durability and reliability for automotive use. “Its modular design and off-the-shelf components make it easily manufacturable in large volumes at low costs,” said Cepton.
“Cepton was one of the first to scale lidar for high-volume, multi-vehicle model deployment through our flagship lidar program,” said Dr. Jun Pei. “Utilizing OEM-validated building blocks, the Vista-X120 Plus aims to enhance vehicle safety across all levels of automation.”
Koito deepens partnership
Koito has awarded Cepton a “significant” ADAS lidar series production award for its General Motors business. Cepton is also engaged with all Top 10 global OEMs.
The previously announced investment, in the form of convertible preferred stock, was approved at a special meeting of Cepton stockholders on Jan. 11, 2023. It is convertible, beginning on the first anniversary of the issue date, into shares of the company’s common stock at an initial conversion price of $2.585 per share.
“We’re excited to have completed our third investment in Cepton, which solidifies our commitment to lidar and increasing automotive safety for drivers worldwide,” said Michiaki Kato, president of Koito. “This is an important year for us as we work towards commercialization and scale manufacturing of our lidar products. We have a strong track record with Cepton as a partner and look forward to achieving our mutual goal of becoming the leader within lidar.”
The company said it has been a leader in automotive lighting since its establishment in 1915. Today, the Koito Group consists of 31 companies located in 13 countries worldwide, and it provides products and services to customers all over the world.
The Tier 1 automotive supplier said it is responding to the transformation of mobility through the development of next-generation lighting technologies and related equipment. Koito added that it is developing control systems and environmentally friendly products, materials, and production methods.