Honda invests $5M in Canesta

If you’ve ever wondered when the auto industry would catch up with sci fi movies and develop cars that run on autopilot, look no further than Canesta Inc. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer of chips that help computers measure 3D spaces announced today that it has raised $5 million in venture funding over the last three years from Honda Strategic Ventures, the Mountain View, Calif.-based VC arm of the motor group.

Canesta has now raised about $50 million in total VC funding since 2000 from such firms as Apax Partners Worldwide, The Carlyle Group, Intel Capital and Venrock Associates, among others.

The company makes low-cost, 3-D sensors that basically act like camera chips. The chips can sense the distance to nearby objects, and it’s believed that the tiny sensors could have big uses in automobiles and even airplanes one day. Whether the investment means that the safety technology will soon find itself in next-generation of Honda Accords is another matter. Canesta wouldn’t say what car manufacturers it is working with.

The technolgy for now is probably best suited to help drivers park their cars or provide audible wanring signals when they change lanes to prevent them from hitting a car or other objects in their blind spot. With apologies to Isaac Asimov, cars on autopilot speeding around an industrialized city could still be decades away from reality.