Lidar Maker Aeva Wins Multiyear Contract for Daimler Trucks

Autonomous Tech Maker Will Supply Both Software and Hardware to Daimler
Mercedes logo
The Mercedes-Benz logo sits on the Daimler AG truck exhibition stand at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany. (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg News)

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Aeva Technologies Inc. has won a multiyear contract to supply Daimler Truck Holding AG with technology to help advance autonomous driving on highways.

The Silicon Valley firm will serve as a tier 1 supplier, transacting directly with the large automotive player, and provide both the hardware and software for what it calls its 4D lidar system. Because it uses a constant beam of light to collect information, Aeva’s method measures velocity as well distance in real time, helping to deliver “highway automation at highway speeds,” CEO Soroush Salehian said in an interview.

“It’s a first production win of a top automaker deciding to transition away from 3D pulse lidar to 4D lidar technology,” the 35-year-old co-founder said. His company estimates the contract will be worth around $1 billion over its life span, a major win for a 7-year-old firm that booked just over $4 million in revenue in 2022. Daimler did not state the size of the contract.

Prior to founding Aeva in 2016, Salehian and co-founder Mina Rezk worked at Apple Inc.’s Special Projects Group. Their approach to lidar differs from the conventional pulse-based laser systems and combines custom-designed silicon photonics with a bespoke processing chip. Aeva has also developed its own algorithms and machine learning systems to interpret the data collected, with roughly 150 patents to its name, according to Salehian.

Daimler Truck three years ago announced a partnership with another lidar company, Luminar Technologies Inc., in which it also took a minority stake.

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Mobileye Global Inc., one of the leading names in the automotive sensing business, is working on a similar constant-wave lidar system, which it describes as the next generation of active sensors for autonomous driving.

As self-driving tech caught investor attention, lidar startups mushroomed across the world in recent years, but many have struggled. Aeva, which listed in New York in March 2021, tumbled from more than $16 at the time to a low of 48 cents in November. Since it announced last week that it had won a contract with a major automotive company, its stock has jumped 60%. It didn’t say who the customer was or the size of the deal at the time.

Aeva’s contract with Daimler Truck is to deliver its new product called Atlas, a self-contained system combining processing chip and optics in one, which launched this week at the CES tech conference in Las Vegas. Atlas gathers and interprets the sensor data into a so-called point cloud of information, which is fed to a vehicle’s virtual driver system.

Daimler Truck bought U.S. self-driving startup Torc Robotics in 2019, which until then was funded through a total of $2.2 million in grants from the U.S. Defense Department, according to data firm PitchBook. Salehian said Aeva was also working closely with Torc.

The Atlas system can be used today for driver assistance on highways, and Aeva is also aiming for the China market, as none of the technology in Atlas touches on critical technology that would face U.S. export controls, the CEO said.

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