With sensors as a starting point — Aeva and our journey in autonomous systems

Mar 15 · 3 min read

by Debjit Mukerji and T.J. Rylander

When we at Next47 first heard the Aeva story in 2017 from co-founders Soroush Salehian and Mina Rezk, their objectives were lofty but clear. Develop unique 4D LiDAR technology that could see further and with greater detection accuracy, more robust noise rejection and lower power than anything else out there — while delivering velocity information in addition to range. And just as importantly — achieve automotive-grade reliability with no exotic materials or processes, targeting volume manufacturability and a cost point within reach of the mass market.

At the heart of Aeva’s differentiation is its measurement principle. The frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) approach relies on sophisticated signal modulation and processing, and while it is one thing to map out a complex design on paper, it is quite another to translate it into working hardware. What amazed us nearly four years ago was Aeva’s ability to build a fully functioning prototype within just months. Aware that the road from early example to production sensor is long and challenging, the company’s agility while advancing on a disruptive blueprint gave us confidence that they had a fighting shot to emerge among the winners in the space.

The exceptional team at Aeva has come a long way towards that promise. Today we’re excited to celebrate its achievements as we observe the company’s public listing (NYSE: AEVA). While their roadmap calls for much more development to come and progress to be made, this impressive milestone marks Aeva as a standout player and gives it the resources to forge ahead on that ambitious path.

Next47’s engagement with Aeva was an important starting point for us. In the self-driving vehicle space it led to further investments like rideOS, developing optimized dispatch and routing for AV fleets. But it also catalyzed deeper engagement in autonomous systems generally. While self-driving on-road vehicles have captured the public imagination and the lion’s share of development dollars, our portfolio exemplifies that the autonomous revolution is impacting many other verticals and through diverse modalities of movement.

Avidbots Neo: autonomous floor scrubbing robot

Firmly on the ground are Built Robotics and Avidbots. Built aims to revolutionize the construction industry with its autonomous stack for heavy earth moving equipment like excavators. Avidbots is transforming industrial and commercial floor cleaning with robots that self-navigate large spaces like airports and shopping malls and collect additional environmental data in the process. Taking to the sky is Skydio, leading the drone industry with the depth and sophistication of its flight intelligence. Its autonomy-first approach uses cleverly-positioned cameras for omnidirectional vision and a bunch of neural nets to sort through complex navigation. And somewhere in between, Gecko Robotics’ gravity-defying climbing machines scale walls and crawl upside down. Armed with a slew of sensors, they detect cracks and other defects in critical infrastructure, in a fraction of the time and capturing orders of magnitude more information than conventional techniques.

Skydio Dock: Remotely deploy, fly, and monitor

What all of these have in common is the integration of hardware plus software into complete solutions, requiring that many complex technology layers work together. Sensors like Aeva’s function as the eyes and ears of such autonomous systems. They provide the critical, base level of instantaneous information to the robot about its surroundings, which determines how it should react at every moment.

It’s in that foundational sensor layer that our journey started with Aeva. We can’t wait to see what the future holds as they strive, now as a public company, to make the next generation of smarter and safer robotic solutions possible — both on the road and beyond.

Next47 Insights

Entrepreneurship and industry insights.

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