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Lidar developer Innoviz CEO on $1.4B SPAC transaction

Lidar startup Innoviz is set to go public in a $1.4 billion SPAC deal with Collective Growth Corp. Innoviz CEO Omer Keilaf joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: We have been really fixated, as has the market, on this SPAC trend this year. Special purpose acquisition companies have been doing a lot of deals. And our next guest, his company is going public through what we used to call a blank check company or a reverse merger, and we now more commonly referred to as a SPAC.

Innoviz is the name of the company. It's a company that makes LiDAR technology. Which as we talked about recently, helps navigate autonomous vehicles. Omer Keilaf is joining us now. He is the CEO of Innoviz.

And so we-- as I mentioned, we have talked to a couple of different LiDAR makers as of late. Where are you in terms of developing the technology? It sounds like you're going to come to market perhaps in the second half of 2021. And what do you see as the sort of best use case for LiDAR, how widespread is it eventually going to be?

OMER KEILAF: Yeah. Thank you very much. And thank you for inviting me. Innoviz started four years ago. One of our biggest success was our partnership with a program for series production by BMW. It's an L3 program which is going to launch in the coming years. We are also working with several tier 1s that we partnered with and offer our solutions to different car makers.

So BMW is the first high volume series production and probably the only highest-- really high volume production program in the market today. And BMW chose us for their cars. LiDARs are needed for autonomous driving, L3 and L4. Meaning that the car can drive itself without any intervention or supervision by the driver.

Of course, license could be applied in other applications, autonomous shuttles, last mile deliveries, drones, et cetera. Our LiDAR, which I'm holding here in my hand, as you can see it's very, very small compared to the LiDARs that are available today that are traditionally very big and quite expensive. This is really an enabler for scale in autonomous driving.

MYLES UDLAND: And Omer, as I understand-- it's Myles here. Thanks for-- Thanks for joining us.

I understand it. Elon Musk is not a huge fan of LiDAR technology and I'm curious how you see the ways, the solutions Tesla has gone with versus what you guys are planning. If you see one as the way that the entire auto industry will go or as autonomous vehicles become more widespread, will there just be different solutions at different automakers. And the partners you work with, they're going to like your stuff. And other people might go different directions.

OMER KEILAF: Yeah. I'll start by saying that I really appreciate Elon Musk. I think he's-- I like the fact that he's a role model for young kids. He's trying to solve interesting problems for the world. But, five years ago when he made a decision for the platform that he's using for the cars that he's selling today, he was right.

Because there was no LiDAR at that time that was available. Not at the price point, not the availability. And he was looking at time to market and offer something that others couldn't. But today, the reality has changed. And LiDAR are available and at the right price point.

And they provide the right level of redundancy that you need when you really want to achieve a full autonomous driving. Every feature or function in a car is defined in a certain level of functional safety. Which is in autonomous driving obviously, you understand that for a full autonomous driving you need to have full redundancy.

What you see here on the screen is our LiDAR in real action. And you can see that we provide a very high resolution and of understanding of the scene. We also provide the software that translates the 3D information that we get from the scene to identify and classify objects such as cars, pedestrian, trucks, and motorcycles.

When the camera becomes blind, either it's because the sun is in its sight or because there are issues with low light conditions, you need to have full redundancy. You need to have a backup. And up until now, there is no sensor in the market that provides that level of data. So LiDARs are a necessity.

And it's regulated in automotive that you need to have a redundancy system. So you can't really achieve full autonomous driving without a full backup for anything. Because anything that might happen on the road, you need to be able to identify by at least two sensors that are uncorrelated.

And two cameras do not provide redundancy to each other, because both of them will fail in the same situation. And a radar is just suffering from very low resolution. You can't really see a path between a beer of-- a can of beer and a truck after 50 meters. As you can see from the details here--

BRIAN SOZZI: Omer.

OMER KEILAF: Yeah, go ahead.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yeah, no Omer, I want to-- let me just hop in here real quick. I was going through the slide deck and explaining this back. And one of the selling points here is you. In your experience in the Israeli Army, specifically unit 81. But also too, I believe 25% of your R&D team comes out of unit 81. What was that unit? And why is it a selling point?

OMER KEILAF: Yeah, so, I mean, if you-- you've been in Israel you might know that the Israeli Defense Force is probably one of the places where a lot of technology is developed. And the unit I come from, which is it's quite small. But it's very special in the sense that it's called the elite technology unit.

Which we develop a lot of very complex technologies, but also in a very reliable way. They only choose the best engineers, that come out from the University. And I've spent there for seven years developing very complex technologies. And you also learn about how to develop those technologies in a very short time.

Because every year, there is a new technology or a product that needs to be developed from scratch. And it's really a human collaboration of hundreds of people working on this project. And there was a lot of methodologies that you need to bring in, in order to do that every year all over again.

And once we were able to attract so many people from that unit, it helped us to hit the ground running. We all talk the same language. And we understand how to develop things very quickly. And it was needed, because five years ago, there was there was such a big gap between what the market needs and the availability of technology.

We had to develop so many technologies, different technologies, to develop this LiDAR. We had to bring a lot of knowledge in so many disciplines. And that's kind of, I would say the knowledge that we brought in. And it's not just technical knowledge, it's organizational knowledge, and how to develop those technologies in a short time.

JULIE HYMAN: Omer, thank you so much for your time, appreciate it. Omer Keilaf is Innoviz CEO. Come back and join us when the transaction closes and you guys start trading here in the US. Appreciate your time.

OMER KEILAF: Thank you very much. Bye bye.