Irish firms Provizio and Mergon drive safer future of transport

Provizio’s partnership with Mergon will see AI and radar boost safety in multi-billion-dollar sectors like mining, industry and smart cities.

The joining of forces between young Limerick tech firm Provizio and established Westmeath-based tier 1 automotive player Mergon could put Ireland once in the driving seat when it comes to the safer, AI-based future of transport.

Provizio and Mergon will work together on the delivery of radar and AI perception technologies that will initially increase safe driving features vehicles in the trucking, industrial machinery and robotics, mining and smart city industries, but could eventually feature in future consumer passenger vehicles.

“50% of mining industry deaths are actually caused by people being knocked down by machinery”

Established in Castlepollard in 1981, Mergon makes systems for cooling, clear vision and air management and its technologies feature in some of the most popular vehicle brands in the world today, including electric vehicle leader Tesla.

Headed by Barry Lunn, Provizio is a young Limerick business that is at the cutting edge of applying 5D perception and AI in vehicles to prevent accidents.

Finding a safer way

Lunn, who sold his previous business Arralis an aircraft radar technology firm, for a reported $50m in 2017, was inspired by an accident he was involved in to come up with a better way to use technology to boost safety on roads.

An estimated 1.35m people are killed every year in road traffic accidents with more than 20m injured, according to the World Health Organisation, costing more than $2trn in the US alone. 94% of these crashes are caused by human error. Lunn wants to fix this by creating a device that can be installed in most cars for a unit cost of less than $100.

Provizio’s product is a five-dimensional (5D) sensory vision system that will augment drivers’ capabilities and prevent accidents in real-time and beyond line of sight.

The business has raised $6.2m in funding from a range of investors including Movidius founders Seán Mitchell and David Moloney, automotive entrepreneur Bobby Hambrick as well as the European Innovation Council and Act Venture Capital.

Breakthrough technologies

Provizio is set to showcase a live demonstration of its revolutionary perception technology at the highly anticipated Transport Research Arena Conference taking place today (15 April to Thursday 18 April) at the RDS in Dublin.

The collaboration between Provizio and Mergon, cemented by both companies presence in Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FMCI), takes the form of a box-build partnership. Under this arrangement, Mergon will assist in the designing, developing and manufacturing processes of Provizio’s VizioR&I production units.

VizioR&I delivers advanced radar perception capabilities, including object classification, speed, trajectory and driving freespace, by leveraging Provizio’s library of proprietary AI, machine learning and Digital Signal Processing neural nets and algorithms.

Utilising chip technology made by Nvidia, a leader in the AI chip space, the device can perceive objects up to and beyond 500 metres – crucial in areas like autonomous trucking where every second counts.

By harnessing Mergon’s expertise in volume production, Lunn told ThinkBusiness he anticipates a broader availability of Provizio’s ground-breaking imaging radar technology.

“Mergon has manufacturing facilities in five different countries including Ireland, the UK, the US, Czech Republic and Mexico. For an Irish company they are a major success story and they are in pretty much nearly every vehicle in the world.”

Lunn said Provizio and Mergon will be specifically focused on making integrated circuits and chip technology that will drive 5D antenna in upcoming vehicles.”

He explained that while the partnership will focus on what are considered automotive niches like industrial, mining and trucking, each of these niches are multi-billion dollar industries in their own right.

Working closely with Nvidia to develop the general processing unit (GPU) chips that will feature on the Provizio/Mergon technology is also a major breakthrough for the emerging Limerick business, Lunn said.

“The GPU allows us to do perception in that we’re able to see if a human is walking through fog or smoke or dust while driving a JCB, for example. The intelligence can classify that it’s a human being based on the speed and direction they are moving in. Our radars can triangulate themselves to the environment they are in. If there is an explosion or a lot of dust, they can find their way and also identify people and other objects. 50% of mining industry deaths are actually caused by people being knocked down by machinery.”

Lunn added that the partnership between Mergon and Provizio is a major step forward for Ireland’s automotive industry ambitions.

Speaking on the collaboration, Caolan Bushell, vice-president of Business Development at Mergon added: “This partnership aligns with our core objectives of turning creative and innovative ideas into great products that positively contribute to the automotive sector as well as our society. I am confident  that our combined expertise will not only propel the advancement of autonomous driving technologies but also shape the future of mobility, paving the way for safer and more efficient mobility solutions globally.”

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John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.