15 Mar 2021
Lidar technology developers raise a combined $860 million as they finalize stock market transitions.
The two firms, both based in California, join rivals Velodyne Lidar and Luminar Technologies, both of whom completed SPAC mergers last year. Two more lidar companies - AEye and Innoviz Technologies - are aiming to complete similar moves within the next few weeks.
Prior to listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Aeva said that it was expecting to raise around $560 million in gross proceeds from its deal with InterPrivate Acquisition Corp. and associated PIPE (private investment in public equity) support. It will begin trading March 15.
Ouster, which began trading March 12, said it raised $300 million through its agreement with Colonnade Acquisition Corp. On its first day of trading the stock dropped in value by around 7 per cent.
Former Apple engineer Soroush Salehian, who co-founded Aeva with Mina Rezk and is now CEO of the company, said in response to the SPAC completion:
“As we begin Aeva’s next chapter as a public company, we are in a strong position to realize our vision of scaling our industry-first 4D lidar technology and bring perception to all devices.”
Rezk, now CTO, added: “We founded Aeva with the vision to bring a new wave of perception technology to market and advance the capabilities of automated driving. This key milestone marks the next stage of our growth, as we look forward to accelerating our ability to bring our unique 4D lidar on chip technology to not just automotive, but consumer, industrial and beyond.”
Aeva is unique among the six lidar companies to have either already listed or in the process of doing so, in that it is developing frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) technology.
It means that instead of firing out laser pulses in all directions and building up a 3D point cloud from time-of-flight reflections of those pulses, Aeva’s approach uses coherent optics to scan its surroundings continuously with a frequency-chirped source. As a result, it is able to deduce the direction in which other road users are traveling - thanks to the Doppler Effect.
While complex, proponents of the FMCW approach say that it has several advantages over pulsed time-of-flight lidar - not least that it can be shrunk to chip scale using silicon photonics technology.
That potential has been noted by Intel and its vehicle autonomy subsidiary Mobileye, which said in January that it was hoping to deploy FMCW lidar technology developed within Intel by 2025.
Ouster has adopted a more conventional strategy, relying on multi-beam flash lidar, but is innovating when it comes to its choice of VCSELs as laser sources. The company is also casting its net significantly wider by targeting applications in industrial automation, smart infrastructure, and robotics markets, as well as in automotive.
Its co-founder and CEO Angus Pacala said: “Ouster is powering the vision for an autonomous future where lidar-powered solutions are ubiquitous and built into every part of the industrial economy.
“We have established a strong business with a disruptive digital lidar technology, a diversified customer base of over 500 customers, and global manufacturing and supply chain capabilities that are scaling toward high volume production.
“The capital raised through our transition to a publicly traded company will enable us to further accelerate the adoption of our proven technology across multiple end markets and realize a safer, smarter, more efficient future.”