Strata has helped Chassis Autonomy become one of the EIC winners in the October 2022 call.
Europe is betting heavily on autonomous vehicles (AVs) as they are expected to prevent thousands of deaths and road accidents, increase vehicle utilisation, increase energy efficiency, and decrease road congestion.In July 2022, the EU started to implement the new Vehicle General Safety Regulation aimed at improving road safety. The regulation includes a legal framework to approve automated and fully driverless vehicles in the EU, contributing to promote innovation and the competitiveness of Europe’s automotive industry. Two months later, the EU became one of the first regions in the world to introduce type-approval legislation (EU 2022/1426) for the registration and sale of fully automated vehicles in small series volumes.
Over the past few years, there has been a remarkable improvement in AV technology. We have seen impressive new AI technology and new sensing technology (e.g., LiDAR, RADAR, etc.), but the actuation (the action of causing the hardware to move) is lagging behind. Indeed, today’s actuation systems are not designed for use in autonomous vehicles and do not meet the safety requirements of the new EU legislation and this is preventing autonomous driving from taking the next step.To solve this issue, Peter Johansson and Thomas Li founded Chassis Autonomy to leverage their extensive automotive industry experience to develop technologies for autonomous vehicles.
Chassis Autonomy is developing by-wire actuation systems that will enable the next step change in the automotive industry.
The company’s main objective is to develop fault tolerant by-wire actuation systems that will enable the unrestricted deployment of safe, fully autonomous vehicles; setting the new state-of-the-art and complying with the new EU legislation. Their technology enables a safer approach to AVs, since, as Thomas Li states:
“Without our technology, without fail-operational steering and braking systems, the market will not achieve significant growth because the vehicles would not be safe to operate safely at higher speeds.”
We at Strata are working closely with Chassis Autonomy and have accompanied them through a successful EIC application that will help them receive important economic support on their journey to make autonomous driving a reality.
Journey, challenges and opportunities
Chassis Autonomy’s journey started in 2021 when Peter Johansson and Thomas Li spun-out a new company to develop and commercialise a technology that was previously prototyped at NEVS, a leading mobility player in Sweden. They had been working together for two-and-a-half years, leading a team of engineers to develop steering and braking systems specifically for autonomous vehicle applications.
“That project was closed down by NEVS for various reasons; however, we believed there was significant potential in the products that we had developed and a really strong market for their deployment. When the opportunity arose, we span-off the technology and we are now continuing to develop and commercialise it under Chassis Autonomy, a separate and wholly independent company.”
As for many tech entrepreneurs, the team faced some important challenges: funding and then finding customers. As Thomas Li explains, it is a paradox:
“To raise capital we need to show that we have customers, and to have customers on-board we need to show them that we have the capital to develop the product towards production, so funding and customers are the two critical areas. Technologically, in terms of the product, we already achieved proof-of-concept on an autonomous vehicle prior to spinning off, so the challenge now is to commercialise it. With our wide networks in the UK and Sweden, and as an aspiring highly innovative engineering company, we have managed to recruit the right people and talent to be able to take this to market and make it a success.” Thomas Li explained to us.
Expectations for the future
As Thomas Li commented, “AVs will happen, the question is when”. He is convinced that in the future humans won’t drive vehicles.
Right now, they are focused on the steering system, where they have had significant traction across the market.
“We have talked with many potential customers. It’s all about deploying the core technology, the core steer-by-wire system for autonomous vehicles, to enable our customers and the wider ecosystem to take that next step towards serial deployment, starting with pre-series trials this year.”The solution is expected to be in serial production by 2025. They then plan to expand and become one of the market leaders in steering and braking systems for highly automated and fully autonomous vehicles across the world.
Chassis Autonomy experience with the EIC
Chassis Autonomy became one of the EIC winners in the last call of 2022:
“We were very excited and happy to secure the financing. We started with the process back in April. We had a business plan, an idea and a vision, but the entire process has helped us to focus on specific areas and questions within the EIC application that are applicable to the wider operation of the business.”
As Thomas Li explained, if they hadn’t received the money, they would still have improved their business plan by identifying company risks and learning something from the process.
“Obviously, we received the money and that’s great, but it’s been a very good process for us to learn as a company how to convey our message and vision in less technical terms; terms that can be understood by a wider audience, who may be new to the technology or the sector, so it’s also been very useful in that sense”.
According to Thomas Li, the EIC gives them stable finance and opportunities. Being supported by the EIC also diminishes the risks for investors:
“Essentially, thanks to the EIC, we will accelerate the technical development of the product with a very strong financial base and runway; this will enable us to attract further capital investment and solidify our value proposition and credibility to potential customers and suppliers, as we push towards series production.”
Chassis Autonomy and its collaboration with Strata in the EIC application
At Strata, the team was led by Martin Stanford who counted on the help of Inma Martin and David Arias.
“Chassis Autonomy is a game-changing company with a revolutionary technology. They are setting the new standard for vehicle safety and opening the door to fully regulated autonomous vehicles in Europe and, eventually, the world. Peter and Thomas are visionaries with a big goal to change the world, and they are well on their way. It has been a pleasure to watch the business plan grow and develop into a funding bid worthy of the EIC Accelerator,” Martin acknowledges.
Thomas Li considers that the EIC is quite an intensive application that requires a lot of work, but it’s absolutely worth it. However, in his opinion, it is a highly competitive process, so if they had tried to do it themselves, their efforts may not have been enough.
“It was our first time so we didn’t have the experience and know-how of how to structure the answers and the responses to get the balance of what the EIC is looking for.”
Thomas Li considers that the help from Strata has been key in the development and writing of the case, specially to express what Chassis Autonomy was doing, the company, the vision, the market, etc., in a language that is required for the application.
“It was a very positive experience, the team was key to translating our vision and technical strategy into the appropriate work plan format; they were very understanding and they clearly did a very good job. The help and support from Strata was fundamental and the reason why we managed to succeed on the first attempt,” concluded Thomas Li.
At Strata, we help tech companies develop effective fundraising and go-to-market strategies . Founded in 2019, the company boasts an international team of experts in technology, science, business, technology transfer and innovation, and counts with a customer base that spreads across 12 countries.
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