AEye Announces $16 Million Series A Funding
【Summary】On June 13th, AEye Inc, a robotic vision pioneer based in the San Francisco Bay Area announced the close of a $16 million series A venture round. AEye’s advanced vision system is the first to “pre-fuse” solid state LiDAR with computer vision, enabling newfound vision intelligence in autonomous vehicles.
On June 13th, AEye Inc, a robotic vision pioneer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, announced the close of a $16 million series A venture round from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Airbus Ventures, Intel Capital, Tyche Partners and others. AEye's advanced vision system is the first to "pre-fuse" solid state LiDAR with computer vision, enabling newfound vision intelligence in autonomous vehicles.
"We are excited to partner with such reputable firms who share our vision to expedite the delivery of safe, reliable autonomous transportation," said Luis Dussan, CEO of AEye. "The biggest bottleneck to the rollout of robotic vision solutions has been the industry's inability to deliver a world-class perception layer. Quick, accurate, intelligent interpretation of the environment that leverages and extends the human experience is the Holy Grail, and that's exactly what AEye intends to deliver."
The perception layer in autonomous driving is is the suite of sensors on a vehicle that provide information about the environment and surrounding objects. These include LiDAR, radar, and cameras, and GPS.
Founded in 2013, AEye develops advanced vision hardware, software and algorithms that act as the eyes and visual cortex of autonomous vehicles. Since the demonstration of its first solid state LiDAR scanner in 2013, AEye has pioneered breakthroughs in intelligent sensing and perception technology. The company is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
AEye aims to differentiate from many competitors by providing Lidar along with computer vision technology that can scan a scene and quickly identify objects, said Luis Dussan, chief executive of AEye. Most competitors can capture loads of data but are unable to quickly process and analyze that data in real time, he said.
"We're not just Lidar," Mr. Dussan said. "We're a unique combination of both. The idea that you can separate data gathering from processing—that's where the key bottleneck of this is in our industry." This technology makes it easier to identify "corner cases" that are typically difficult for autonomous vehicles to identify on the fly, Mr. Dussan said.
The Eyes and Brains of Vehicles
AEye's advanced vision system combines proprietary LiDAR and computer vision with artificial intelligence and customized software to enable a new level of safety for operators and passengers of autonomous or driver-assisted vehicles.
The system intelligently scans a scene, focusing on its "information content" rather than data. By having a visual cortex behind the "eyes" of the vehicle that digests information quickly, AEye greatly improves reliability. AEye's solid state system, which uses a 1550 nanometer laser, reduces bandwidth and improves performance to enable fast control loops through improved perception.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) Expected to Grow
ABI Research forecasts global Mobility as a Service (MaaS), is expected to have a disruptive impact on traditional transportation modes like car ownership, buses, trains, aviation, taxis, and rental cars, will exceed $1 trillion in revenues by 2030.
According to BI Intelligence, the automotive sector alone will put 10 million self-driving cars on the road by the year 2020. In a recent report, Intel forecasts a new "Passenger Economy" powered by Mobility as a Service will be worth $7 trillion by 2050 and save, conservatively, 585,000 lives in the preceding decade.
AEye is attracting some of the biggest and most innovative players in the automotive, heavy and aerospace industries.
"AEye is a leading-edge innovator, whose robotic vision system is bringing unique capabilities to sense and avoid systems that will help revolutionize transportation," said Thomas d'Halluin, CEO, Airbus Ventures. "We're thrilled to support the team alongside other forward-looking strategic and financial investors, and we can't wait to be a part of AEye's growth as its technology helps drive the future of mobility."
AEye will use its series A funding to commercialize its robotic vision system. The company is currently in early testing with large transportation and heavy industry OEMs, with phased commercial rollouts planned throughout 2017 and 2018.
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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