VayaVision Sensing Ltd., the Israeli-based perception systems company, has won a small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) Instrument Grant from the European Innovation Council (EIC), which the company believes would aid in its penetration into the European automotive market. VayaVision works in the autonomous driving segment, developing perception software for self-driving vehicles using raw data fusion with up-sampling – a proprietary process of fusing data to improve on the resolution of 3D sensors like Lidar and Radar.
The startup’s winning proposal detailed a roadmap which it would work on if awarded the grant. This included bringing the company’s perception software VAYADrive 2.0 to the European market, and adapting and customizing the offering to the European audience. That aside, part of the grant money will also be used for marketing and support infrastructure, and in training local European support teams to assist European Union (EU)-based original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier-1s.
“We are delighted to have won EIC’s SME grant, which is something only a few companies manage to receive. The Phase 2 grant that we’ve received has a success rate of 3.6 percent,” said Ronny Cohen, CEO and co-founder of VayaVision. “It’s a €3.5 million project, of which the EIC will fund 70 percent – amounting to €2.45 million, which is great news for us.”
Aside from the usual set of criteria that are taken into account for awarding the grant, the committee also looked at the potential value of the product in the real world. “Autonomous driving is definitely at the top, because everybody realizes the implication it may have on casualties and injuries on the road. There is value here that is beyond just money and business,” said Cohen. “On top of this, the solution needed to be viable and work on the latest technology. In essence, the jury was convinced that we have a great chance to succeed, considering our offering, value and maturity.”
Cohen explained that this project was a way for the startup to circumvent lengthy approach times to access automotive OEMs and Tier-1s directly. The grant would be disbursed over a period of two years, which Cohen believed is in-sync with the duration it would take for getting into a design supply agreement with automotive manufacturers.
VayaVision’s target customers are the OEMs and Tier-1s, which makes Europe a natural choice for the company to look at expansion. Several French, German and Scandinavian companies are developing their own versions of an autonomous vehicle, which Cohen explained, would be a situation that is tailor-made for VayaVision to work in, because manufacturers would require an environmental perception solution to integrate with their autonomous software.
“Eventually, even though these big players work on all kinds of detections or partial perception, a full and efficient environmental model is not easy to develop. A partner we are working with tells us that by running an integrated more-or-less full environmental model on a single NVIDIA processor, we are creating history within the industry,” said Cohen.
During 2019, VayaVision seeks to integrate its software in the autonomous driving engine, and do a test drive on a German autobahn. Cohen mentioned that the startup is looking to continuously improve its software, while also pushing towards better productization of the solution. VayaVision is currently in the midst of a Series-A raise, with plans to raise around $20 million.
“The funding from the EIC is great, but we are also working on raising our own equity money to move forward, because the goal essentially is to bring the best environmental perception model for all the OEM players in the autonomous space,” said Cohen.