Volvo invests in imaging tech startup Spectralics

24 November 2021

Volvo Cars (Volvo) has invested in optical and imaging technology startup Spectralics. This will give the Swedish brand access to promising systems during the early stages of development. These technologies could help make cars safer, as well as transform the user experience.

The Israeli-based company hails from a background in aerospace development, making imaging and optical infrastructure, including hardware, software and the system’s necessary materials. These products could enable a wide variety of automotive visual capabilities.

‘Spectralics is an exciting company with technology that holds truly great promise,’ said Henrik Green, chief product officer at Volvo Cars. ‘By supporting their development, we can bring forward the potential their products could have in future Volvo cars.’

Multi-layered thin combiner 

One of Spectralics’ key systems is the multi-layered thin combiner (MLTC). This thin optic is essentially a ‘film’ that can be applied to see-through surfaces, regardless of shape or size. It could therefore be integrated into a vehicle’s windshield or windows to overlay imagery on the glass.

Taking the windshield as a primary example, the MLTC could create a wide field of view head-up display (HUD). It could help communicate distance with virtual objects superimposed onto the real-world environment. Other uses include advanced filters for in-cabin sensing, blind-proof front-looking cameras and digital holographic projections.

‘We are proud to partner with a progressive technology leader like Volvo Cars,’ said Ran Bar-Yosef, co-founder and CEO of Spectralics. ‘We identify multiple touch-points with Volvo Cars’ vision in the ecosystem and recognise future Volvos as the right fit for new technologies.’ 

Startup success story

The Spectralics investment was carried out through Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the company’s venture capital investment arm. The fund was launched in 2018 and focuses on strategic technology trends capable of transforming the industry, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and electrification.

Spectralics is an alumnus of the MobilityXLab programme in Gothenburg, Sweden. It also forms part of the Drive Network in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Both programmes attempt to accelerate promising startups with the potential to break new ground in the automotive sector. Volvo has been a leading partner of both since 2017.

‘This investment is another result of our successful collaboration with MobilityXlab and Drive, and it deepens our relationship with these innovation partners,’ said Lee Ma, head of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. ‘Spectralics is a good portfolio fit for us and we believe that their technology has the potential to set a standard for the next generation of displays and cameras.’

See-through safety

From mobile devices to powerful infotainment systems and dominating displays, today’s vehicles are filled with potentially distracting elements. While some might blame technology for these risks, others, like Spectralics and Volvo, are counting on it as the saviour.

HUDs can provide a driver with all the information they could ever need without them having to take their eyes off the road. With the integration of augmented technology and sensors, these displays can even overlay symbols onto the outside world, such as directions and warning signs, removing the need to glance at the centre console for a map, and a helping hand recognising the potential for collisions.