The SPAC game is not over yet! Start-up Aeva is going public through a merger with an acquisition company and could look at a $2.1 billion valuation.
Another player in the self-driving car industry
Aeva is a Mountain View based start-up founded by two former Apple engineers – it always seems to be a reason for trust. They make sensors for self-driving cars, blending the technological capacities of lidar, cameras and radar.
I know I lost some of you here, I did not know what lidar was either. Let me explain.
What is lidar technology?
Lidar stands for Light Detection and Ranging. Basically, it is a remote sensing method that uses pulsed light to measure the distance between the signal transmitter and a point in space. A basic lidar instrument consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver. The way it works is that the machine pulses many lasers which illuminate an object reflecting them, sending them back to the machine. The many points are recorded, put together and eventually form a 3D impression of the surroundings.
Lidar technology is critical for self-driving cars to “see” the world around them. However, the tech does bring challenges regarding its integration with digital cameras and radar robotics already used by cars.
What is new with Aeva?
In comparison with other Lidar companies – such as Velodyne or Luminar – Aeva claims that its technology is a little different. The startup positions itself as a 4D system that not only integrate all lidar function in a single silicon chip, but also measures instance velocity. Unlike classical lidar technologies which simply pulse a laser and measure the distance to the point once returned, Aeva’s system is emitting a low-power constant beam which measures the changes of frequencies in the waves reflected by objects, which permits a simultaneous distance and velocity measurement, without sacrificing any range. In other terms, it provides better results, consumes less energy and is less likely to be interfered by other laser or sunlight.
“We actually measure velocity very similar to radar. And with velocity, we can get for every single point or pixel all the way up to the 300 or 400 maximum range. We get this down to centimeter per second precision, which fundamentally changes how you view perception,” said cofounder Soroush Salehian. “It’s as if you went from black and white cameras to colour cameras. For your understanding of the world, everything changes. When you go from having a new dimension of measurement capability, everything changes. That's exactly what we have provided.”
The silicon chip (Source: Aeva's website)
Product and applications
Their sensor offers a range of 300m with the highest pixel density all the way, a 120-degree angle to see everything in front of the car, with, of course, instant velocity measurement. Plus, the company is certain that other sensors or sunlight will cause no interference. Sensors will be the size of a card deck and will cost a few hundred dollars.
While we are only talking about the application of the tech to self-driving cars, there are many other ways we could use it. Salehian said that if we can measure velocity down to centimeters per second with hundreds of meter range, we could very well use the same chip with less range and increased processing to measure things on micron-level accuracy. We could imagine pointing the laser at someone’s skin to measure biometrics measures such as heart rate, or more complex elements such as arteriosclerosis. The technical applications could be immense. And all of this, without even touching the patient.
The sensor of the size of a card deck (Source: Aeva's website)
IPO and other expectations
Note that Aeva would be the third lidar company to go public through an acquisition by a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) after Velodyne and Luminar.
They will be acquired by Interprivate Acquisition Corp. Their ticker would be AEVA on the New York Stock Exchange and they should be able to raise around $2.1 billion. This should happen in the first quarter of 2021. The deal should result in $343 million in gross proceeds, with investors including Adage Capitals and Porsche. Previous investors included Lux Capital, Canaan Partners and Lockheed Martin. Previously, the company had raised $210 million in private investments.
They reported that their revenue this year will be in the “single-digit million dollars”, but should technically rise to $800 million dollar by 2025 if all goes according to plan.
“We went into this with some skepticism about how many lidar companies are out there and came out of the first meeting recognizing a completely different kind of business–a perception company focusing well beyond the automotive space,” said InterPrivate CEO founder Ahmed Fattouh in an interview with Forbes. “The pedigree of the team, coming from Apple, having knowledge of a variety of different consumer, consumer health and industrial applications that go well beyond the automotive, that really set it all apart.”
Really curious about the future applications of this marvelous tech !
Lidar startup Aeva to go public via $2.1 billion SPAC merger, in TechCrunch
Apple vets' self-driving tech startup Aeva going public via SPAC, in Silicon Valley Business Journal
What is lidar?, in National Ocean Service website
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