How One Silicon Chip Photonics Is Making Autonomous Vehicles Drive Smarter And Safer

Sarah Kelsey
October 20, 2023
ventureLAB Clients

From the roadways to the railways, the conversation around semi-autonomous vehicles has taken to the mainstream and one Canadian company has become the go-to for bringing self-driving vehicles safely to reality: One Silicon Chip Photonics (OSCP)

Founded in 2015, OSCP is a fabless Canadian-based integrated optics sensor company that provides inertial navigation sensors for autonomous vehicles and drones. The company has already drawn the attention of high-profile partners like Thales and the Government of Canada and the company’s CEO and founder Kazem Zandi says those deals are just the beginning.

“The goal is to remove several of the barriers preventing widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. By combining navigational-grade accuracy and enhanced reliability with low cost, OSCP technology will enable the autonomous vehicle market and establish us as leaders,” he tells ventureLAB. 

To do that, it’s important for people to understand how autonomous vehicles actually become autonomous. They rely on “GNSS positioning… but must also operate safely in conditions where the GPS signal is denied.” To do that, sensors like Lidar in the car must identify surrendering objects in the local environment, while relying on an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) to calculate position and trajectory.

Conventional IMUs, Kazem notes, “use three accelerometers and three optical gyroscopes called Fiber-Optic Gyroscope (FOG), which cost over $15,000… [that’s] too expensive for commercial vehicle applications. OSCP, on the other hand, is leveraging recent advancements in Integrated-Photonics technology to achieve low-cost, navigation-grade IMUs which, when fully integrated and scaled, can cost less than $500.”

That’s definitely a cost he feels automakers and Amazon (who are all huge advocates for semi-autonomous vehicles) could get behind. 

The idea behind OSCP was born while Kazem was in university, completing doctoral research in engineering physics. His focus was on the development of integrated-optics based inertial sensors (accelerometers and gyroscopes) for space application and he saw the potential of creating something that was smaller and less expensive for autonomous vehicle application.. 

His idea drew interest from Silicon Catalyst, a Silicon Valley-based incubator, and with some refinement and investment, he was able to improve on his initial idea and prep the product for the market. It also caught the eye of the leaders of ventureLAB’s.

Today, Kazem says his company is busy refining its product while also tapping into the support of advisors at ventureLAB to expand all it does. 

“ventureLAB is unique because they have… access to test equipment and lab space,” he says. The organisation is also in Ontario, “the epicentre of the autonomous vehicle, automotive, and drone industries in Canada.” The connections he’s made as part of the program are helping to drive OSCP toward its end goal, Kazem adds. 

“We want to be in the enviable position of leading growth in the autonomous vehicle market. That’s something that we know is possible thanks to the support we’ve received so far.”

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About ventureLAB

ventureLAB is a leading global founder community for hardware technology and enterprise software companies in Canada. Located at the heart of Ontario’s innovation corridor in York Region, ventureLAB is part of one of the biggest and most diverse tech communities in Canada. Our initiatives focused on raising capital, talent retention, commercializing technology and IP, and customer acquisition have enabled thousands of companies to create over 4,000 jobs and raise more than $200 million in investment capital. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, for global markets. 

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