Image Credits: Envisics under CC BY 2.0 license.
The automotive industry is starting to show some signs of recovery after a major contraction during the Covid-19 pandemic, and automakers planning for the next five years are looking at what new features can help them gain more sales. Envisics — a U.K. startup designing holographic in-car technology that displays navigation, safety alerts and other information on the windshield (commonly referred to as a head-up display, or HUD) — is announcing $50 million in funding today. He wants to be part of that conversation.
The funding will be used to develop both Invisix’s existing holographic technology with existing customers, including GM. To continue developing the next generation of the platform, which founder and CEO Dr. Jamieson Christmas said came with the ability to build cars of all sizes (and price points). Improved video capabilities.
“Our next generation technology opens up a lot more holographic capabilities,” he said in an interview. “We’re really on the way to delivering that vision of the Star Wars world [in-car] 3-D volume experiences.
This latest round of funding is described as “in excess” of $50 million and is coming from strategic backers Hyundai Mobis, InMotion Ventures (the investment arm of Jaguar Land Rover and Stellants and Stellants Invicix). “a Series C. Despite the current clouds hanging over the market, Milton Keynes-based Invissys confirmed to us that it is still in talks with other investors to raise more.
However, today’s announcement of $50 million boosts Invisix’s valuation to $500 million — more than double its 2020 valuation of $250 million. Motors Ventures, SIC Motors and Van Tuyl Companies – Family office of the Van Tuyl Group, which specializes in automotive dealerships and related services. (All of these will remain shareholders, Invisix said.)
Invisix has been carving a strong niche for itself among car manufacturers. He declined to name names beyond Jaguar Land Rover, which was the first OEM customer for Invisix technology, but currently Invisix is ”working with everybody,” he told us in an interview. And GM has confirmed that the Lyric Electric Cadillac will integrate second-generation Invisix displays.
But all the same, the startup is facing market challenges in two directions. We’re in an era where we’ve seen many automotive technologies shut down or run out of gas entirely. High-profile efforts like Argo AI shut down, or small but promising startups like Broadmann17; Or further examination of those who still stand like Cruise, nothing seems to be left. We also saw some of the best businesses built around augmented reality technology that included the HUD market.
Hanging on to both industries is not only the broader economy and more automotive sales, but consumers are willing to pay a premium to install them into new vehicles as more realistic displays.
Despite these obstacles, there are some promising signs.
The GM deal, for example, all seems to be coming along just in time. In the year In 2020, Christmas said Invisix’s first commercial products would be released in 2023, and just this week it confirmed that’s still the plan. The first HUDs are “in an amazing position to be released this year,” he said.
While the Lyric is certainly a high-end, premium vehicle, it’s just a start. The startup has inked deals with the likes of Panasonic Automotive Systems, a major automotive supplier that is a division of consumer electronics giant Panasonic, indicating future releases across a wider range of models and price points.
As for what’s being shown on these HUDs, for now, the initial focus – no pun intended – is on the driver’s need-to-know rather than know-how: safety, vehicle status and navigation alerts are the top priority; Not alerts of new albums or podcasts dropped on Spotify. Overall, it’s still about facilitating the best, and safest experience for drivers.
Although automakers initially thought that drivers would want screens in vehicles as ubiquitous as their computers, phones, and TVs, the reality is that large displays can be too distracting and often don’t even make it. Important, Christmas suggested. The same is true of HUDs and the real estate their data takes up on the windshield.
Christmas described the question of how much real estate is too much as “the single biggest pain point that car companies face” in questions of how to build interactive and connected experiences for drivers.
“We are obviously working hard to qualify the technology,” he said. The company has announced that the AR HUD will account for only 1.6 million units in 2022, a very small portion of the overall OEM market, but will grow to 19.1 million in 2032.
Meanwhile, strategic proponents see investing in Invisix now as a good way to get in early when they are ready to deploy the technology.
“Hyundai Mobis is excited to continue our strategic partnership with NVC to jointly develop AR-HUDs and enhance the in-car experience.” Yanghun Han, VP and Head of Electronic Control and Comfort, Hyundai Mobis said in a statement. “Hyundai Mobis looks forward to providing the best holographic technology for its next-generation AR-HUDs and strengthening our partnership with NVCX to provide intuitive, safe and convenient HMI for global automakers.”