Watch Dan discuss auto technologies that will be playing a role in the future of mobility at the AASA 2021 Mobility Innovation Conference.

Video transcript:

So thanks again, Chris and good, good morning or, yeah, good morning, everyone. Or afternoon if you’re in England or UK or elsewhere in Europe. Chris, when you asked me several weeks ago to choose 12 [autotech companies], I almost bust out laughing because of the sheer mass of what’s going on in this industry. To put in perspective, since we opened the Silicon valley office about five years ago, we have chronicled 2,766 auto tech companies worldwide. I got a count from research this morning, as a matter of fact. These guys are everywhere in the world. We actually have two clients in Israel now, one in UK. So they are, and this technology is by no means centered just in North America. So we could have done 50 [companies] and had had the same results. And one thing that we do and we wanted to make sure we did for this presentation was separate the hype from the honest to goodness commercial viability. That’s hard to do sometimes, but we think we have 12 that are certainly going to be commercially viable, and one or two have already proven that they have.

Two main trends for you this morning that we have seen that also helped in our choice is the fairly marked move we’ve seen the last six months. [1] From my daughter’s favorite word, FOMO, the fear of missing out. For 15 years, many of the tech investors worldwide have dipped their toes into the landscape. But now we are seeing all out purchase acquisitions, M & A, which is great for us, of course, and they are no longer just testing the river with one foot. They are jumping in with both feet and their, their whole body. So this has changed a lot of what we’ve done recently. And as I go through this today, I’ll talk about some of the ways that the big guys like Mobileye have started cementing their relationships with some of these guys.

The second trend, then I’ll stop and get to the presentation is [2] the even more market than last year, move away from level five. We almost have no money these days chasing level five. It has become very limited as you know. Geofenced, golf courses, private communities college campuses and so and forth, unless you own the company like Amazon and what they were doing with Zoox, we don’t see much change in that. So the first, the first two are gonna be electrification oriented, something that Will and Joe talked about extensively, and we knew we had to pick a battery company because that’s what is most important these days in terms of getting the price of the vehicle down below those of an ICE engine car because if it doesn’t, the trend is never gonna gain much traction in our opinion.

Solid State Batteries

Solid Power, Inc.

  • Based in Louisville, CO
  • Replaces flammable liquid electrolyte with a proprietary sulfide solid electrolyte
  • Batteriesaresaferandmorestableacrossabroadtemperaturerange
  • Up to 75% increase in vehicle range compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries
  • 4-6x faster charging than lithium-ion (90% charge in 10 minutes)
  • Increased energy density: 50-75% denser than other rechargeable batteries
  • Lightweight: 60% of the weight of lithium-ion
  • Calendar life: >2x the life of lithium-ion
  • Decreased battery cost: Simplified design and lower cost packs
  • $135m Series B led by BMW, Ford and Volta
  • Ford and BMW aim to use Solid Power’s technology in forthcoming electric vehicles
  • SPAC-ed up June 15, 2021

So we chose a uncontroversial one, let’s put it that way. Solid Power in Louisville, Colorado that has replaced the flammable liquid electrolyte with a proprietary solid electrolyte, making their batteries safer with longer range, much faster charging, increased density, lighter weight, and longer life. Something we would like in every auto part, right? Ford and BMW have already committed pretty much to using solid state in their vehicles. And they stacked up; June 15, 2021 including investments in the pipe, I believe from Ford and BMW at the same time. You all are probably surprised that we didn’t choose QuantumScape. And there are a lot of reasons for that. QuantumScape has certainly had the most hype recently, and it is backed by Volkswagen. It uses a top secret revolutionary ceramic material that could enable the manufacturer of these batteries, but they are publishing very little information about this material so it’s hard to opine on it yet; the market will take care of that. Also like another competitor, Ilika in the UK, but they have a lot of non-automotive production so we did not include these.

Electric Motors (axial flux)

Highlands Power, Inc.

  • Based in Sacramento, CA
  • Axial flux motors produce high torque at low speed and eliminate the need for a gearbox
  • Better torque, efficiency and economics than radial flux motors
  • Enables longer drives on a single charge
  • Architecture scales faster with an increase in diameter
  • 15% increase in diameter results in a 46% increase in performance
  • Platform simplification with multiple motors on a single shaft
  • Unique scalability with architecture fitting multiple markets
  • Can serve new markets with minimal additional engineering
  • Secret sauce is a novel cooling system

Right in line with what Will and Joe just talked about, electric motors have changed drastically. The trend we are seeing most pronounced is axial flux, which is, I won’t go into a description, but it looks like a pancake with a rod sticking out of it. So you get more concentrated power, higher torque, and importantly, eliminates the need for a gear box in any vehicle. So this in and of itself saves a lot of weight.

We chose Highlands Power in Sacramento. There have been other deals already in the space specifically YASA based in UK was just bought outright by Mercedes. And I would love to be on that conversation where Mercedes called Ferrari, who had been buying YASA’s product and say, well, I have some good news and bad news. We now own the company. So Ferrari, I don’t, we haven’t seen the, the shakeout from that, but it’s very interesting, Diane.

But Highlands has great architecture and a simple platform that can be used across many uses from electric scooters to airplanes and everything in between. And importantly, the motor is stackable. So you can have as much power as you want to on a specific axle. And you’re wondering secret sauce – and it is with them a very novel cooling system, unlike any we have seen in the industry.


Sense Photonics, Inc.

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  • Based in San Francisco, CA
  • Flash/solid state architecture using patented and proprietary technologies:
    • VCSEL(vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) laser emitter and
    • SPAD (single photon avalanche photodiode) receiver
  • Launched the world’s first 100% solid state global flash LiDAR platform that scales
    • Rich 3D data
    • Highest points per second in the industry at any range in adverse weather conditions
    • Global shutter flash system enables point clouds immune to motion blur and data gaps
  • Short, medium and long-range solutions require minimal adjustment
  • Compact form factor enables seamless integration with the design language of any vehicle

You knew I’d have to talk about LIDAR today. Just as an aside, we have published our LIDAR consolidation theory to many investors around the world and so far everybody has bought off on it.

We have two LIDAR companies at market. These guys, Sense, are a little bit different though. They are the first users of VCSELs and SPADs – something that’s you don’t hear in the common language every day. I won’t even try to tell you what these mean, but VCSEL is the laser emitter and SPAD is the type of laser receiver. These guys have the first real solid-state LIDAR that we have seen. Others have kind of danced around it, such as Melodyne, but so far Sense is the leader in getting this product commercialized. They have a long way to go financially and otherwise, but we have really liked their technology over the months we’ve been dealing with them.

4D Radar

Vayyar Imaging Ltd.

  • Based in Yehud-Monosson, Israel
  • Time is considered the 4th dimension in 4D radar
    • Uses time-of-flight to understand the 3D environment with regards to elevation
    • Can help distinguish a person crossing the road from a tree branch over the road
  • Works in all weather conditions
  • Supports in-cabin use cases: intruder alerts, child detection, seat belt reminders, etc.
  • Replaces other sensors by combining functions
  • Reduces complexity for in-cabin and ADAS applications with a single radio-frequency integrated circuit
  • More functionality can be added over time with simple OTA software upgrades
  • Will be an essential component of the sensor suite for level 2+ autonomy

One thing that I, I don’t believe Joe and Will talked about this, but we’ve seen a lot of advancement with 4D radar. And for this analysis we chose Vayyar in Israel. The fourth dimension is time, something you probably weren’t expecting, but these guys use time of flight to understand the 3D environment with regards to elevation, helping them distinguish between a mother and a child crossing the road and a tree branch. Very impressive of stuff; it works in all weather conditions and has a lot of uses for the automobile industry, including child detection, seatbelt reminders, intruder alerts and so forth. Keep an eye on these guys. You’re gonna hear a lot from them in the next few weeks and months, because they have shown themselves to be an essential component of the sensor suite for anything level two and above.

V2X (vehicle-to-everything)

Commsignia Inc.

  • Based in Santa Clara, CA
  • Provides software solutions for T1’s and OEMs so they can build vehicles with V2X capabilities
  • V2X allow vehicles to communicate with moving parts of the traffic system around them
  • Components include: V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle), V2P (vehicle-to-pedestrian), V2I (vehicle- to-infrastructure) and V2N (vehicle-to-network)
  • Cars will talk to other cars, smartphone-toting pedestrians, infrastructure (e.g. traffic lights and parking spaces) and to data centers via cellular networks
  • Technology compensates for limited line of sight of LiDAR, radar and cameras (e.g. enables a vehicle to know a red light is coming long before it arrives at an intersection)

Commsignia – a company that’s been around a while and is starting to gain considerable traction in vehicle to everything – which is becoming important. It was critical in level five, but it is also still important with level two, three, and four particularly. Their software gives tier ones and OEM’s ability to build vehicles with this a V2X capability. And it includes vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-pedestrian, network, and so forth. And the cars will talk to others such as traffic lights and data centers. And it compensates for some of the limitations of LIDAR. I was in a meeting this past week with the leading traffic light component supplier, and they are all the hardware guys are looking for software like Commsignias. So we are, we believe you’ll see good things and big announcements from these guys pretty soon.


DeepMap, Inc.

  • Based in Palo Alto, CA
  • Accelerating safe autonomy by providing HD mapping and localization solutions
    • Autonomous driving requires a different type of map and service model
    • Centimeter-level precision
    • Constant update to reflect changes in the physical world
    • Seamless integration in the self-driving system
    • Support for fast and robust localization to pinpoint the position of the car in 3D space
    • Efficient data storage allowing for efficient communication between vehicles and the cloud
  • To be acquired by NVIDIA

So one, one of the big trends, as you guys know, is mapping and localization and, by golly, NVIDIA threw down the gauntlet last week with its acquisition of DeepMap based in Palo Alto has been the clear leader we think in mapping and localization for at least three years with centimeter level precision. I’m not making that up, but they have a very efficient system, which obviously NVIDIA was banking on. And I mentioned when I started, we’re seeing the the move away from FOMO, and this is a perfect example NVIDIA and Intel want to be the leader in mapping localization and various kinds of vehicle to infrastructure models. So they have chosen this as their foothold. Others particularly this week Mobileye made it very clear to us that they wanted to be the leader in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). So you’re going to start seeing other announcements from them pretty soon in that regard, we believe.

Autonomous Rideshare


  • Based in Las Vegas, NV
  • Running a pilot with T-Mobile
  • Using its app, driver requests an electric car for a specific dates and time
  • Piloted by a remote operator, a driverless Halo arrives for the customer, who keeps and drives it for duration of the booking
  • Customer ends the trip at desired location
  • The remote operator then drives back to the garage or to the next customer
  • Upfront daily fee includes unlimited charging (i.e., no fuel costs), so customer can drive as much as desired (currently within Las Vegas only)
  • Vehicles equipped with nine cameras, radars and ultrasonics as backup
  • Will connect to remote operators via T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity midband 5G network for low-latency remote operation

So here’s a new one: Autonomous ride share. Ride share has been around for quite a while of course. These guys have not. based in Las Vegas, they are running a pilot with T-Mobile such that the user, you, opens your, opens your app and request an electric car for a specific date and time, just like you would an Uber or Lyft. The car is driven to you by a remote operator. The vehicle arrives to you and you keep it and drive it, then drive it for the duration of the booking and bring it back to wherever you want. And the remote operator puts it back in the garage or sends it onto the next customer. And the it’s a very simple model. The upfront daily fee includes everything including unlimited charging. So you have no fuel cost. Interesting second bullet from the bottom: nine cameras, radars, and ultrasonics, no LIDAR on these things. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions of why the last point is important because this uses T-Mobiles mid-band 5G network.

So why did we include this one? We feel like it sets the stage for more telecommunication companies to assume a more prominent role in mobility. We are pretty sure that’s coming. And if this works, you can bet your bottom dollar, that they’re going to be rolling this out in more places. And other guys such as Verizon are going to start to get into this and V2X and everything similar. So this could greatly disrupt the mobility industry by offering the convenience of Uber and Lyft, with the flexibility of car sharing and driving to your destination rather than the expense of a 40 mile Uber trip. Very interesting. And also the driving cost were up to 20% lower than those of Uber or Lyft, so it could be big news for the industry if it works.

Micromobility Applications

Ride Report

  • Based in Portland, OR
  • Complete mobility management platform for city staff, planners and elected officials
  • Used in more than 70 cities worldwide
  • Certifies scooter and e-bike operators
  • Supports data-driven program management, compliance and invoicing of shared mobility programs
  • Real-time vehicle monitoring: gathers data to provide real-time system state updates
  • Protects operator and rider privacy
  • Capable of producing automated reports

We felt like we needed to include micromobility. We chose Ride Report in Portland though, I’ll say up front, this landscape is really, really crowded, no pun intended. There are companies throughout North America and Europe doing this. These guys have made considerable advancement. Now in more than 70 cities worldwide. I love the fact that they certify their scooter and eBike operators, not sure what that means, but they promote that pretty heavily and they work with, they use and monitor vehicles, scooters, e-bikes you name it. So it’s kind of a one stop shop for the governments around the world to operate their micromobility and is great for city planners and elected officials that are responsible for this. So we’ve seen good things from them and think you will too, in the coming months.

Smart Glass


  • Based in Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Smart glass technology allows glass to change from transparent to varying degrees of opaque on demand
  • Driven by three technologies:
    • Polymer dispersed liquid crystal
    • Suspended particle devices
    • Electrochromic
  • Uses included privacy blind, heat block efficiency and tint/opaque level adjustment
  • Auto applications include dynamic shading, transparent displays and solar control

So of the 12 today, this is the WOW one. I encourage you to look up, look them up on the website and you’ll have to look at the videos two or three times, because you can’t really, it’s hard to grasp at first what they’re doing, but this is, this stuff is just a genius. Materials engineering, smart glass, the technology allows a piece of glass to change from transparent to varying degrees of opaque on demand, including something that looks like blinds or shades that you can roll down in a restaurant just by touching it. They use three different technologies to get there. I won’t go into the, the background of those, but they’re very sophisticated. And the automotive uses include dynamic shading, such as the sunroof, transparent displays, and that pesky solar control that we are beginning to hear so much about. So based in Israel good things coming from them, we are following them very closely.



  • Based in Sunnyvale, CA
  • Infotainment, powertrain, autonomous driving, safety, driver assistance, body electronics, navigation, communications, and IoT edge devices are vulnerable due to a lack of strong cryptographic controls
  • Mocana solves these issues by counter measures including:
    • Securing the integrity of inter and intra-system messaging
    • Securing the digital keys that offer such security countermeasures
    • Rotating the digital keys at scale and as a remote maintenance activity – as a mitigation strategy for recovery on theft or recall
    • Tamper-resistant content delivery through the supply chain

We knew we couldn’t have this presentation today without talking about cybersecurity, which is in our opinion, still greatly misunderstood, greatly segmented in terms of the technology, greatly segmented in terms of whether even for example, encryption is necessary, but these guys have put themselves out there as being a leader with fairly new and different kind of technology. Lot of things in the vehicle are vulnerable to hacking because of a lack of strong control. So Mocana solves these issues by securing the integrity of the messaging, securing the digital keys, rotating the digital keys. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good. And tamper-resistant delivery through the supply chain. So they have tweaked the terminology over the last few months to differentiate themselves. We hope they’re making it because it’s really an attractive offer.

Gesture Control


  • Based in San Francisco, CA
  • Touch-less technology enables cameras and sensors to see, understand and respond to human movement and behavior in any environment or context
  • As levels of autonomy increase, vehicles are set to progressively shift the experience away from driving and towards a shared environment with enriched content interaction
  • Infotainment interaction: accept/reject calls, change music station/volume, adjust temperature/fan setting and control LCD map displays with the use of hand gestures
  • Driver awareness: drowsiness detection, distracted driving alerts
  • Passenger monitoring: passenger aware, driving support, etc.
  • Enriched content interaction: autonomous vehicles will enable passengers to experience an augmented environment (e.g. point at a landmark to learn more and having information displayed on the glass window, screen or personal device)

Gesture control is becoming prominent and desired with the tier ones particularly, we have seen. We have followed just two since their inception, about four years ago, I think. And it’s really just amazing stuff. Their touch-less technology enables cameras and sensors within the vehicle to see, understand, and respond to human movement – changing the radio, turning off the air conditioner, setting the mirrors, I mean you name it. There are just an abundance of things there technology can do within the automobile in infotainment particularly, and passenger monitoring, and driver awareness. If we have time, I will speak about the driver monitoring. Well, I will next on, on Adam’s slide, but driver-awareness is, is becoming critical for most of these DMS providers and fleet management companies worldwide. So we said Gestoos is one of the leaders in gesture control. I think they will continue to be so, and we got a lot of referral and references to from other companies just because of the prolific nature of their technology.

Driver Cognition Monitoring

ADAM CogTech

  • Based in Beit Yehoshua, Israel
  • A developer of AI software solutions that represent the world’s first non-intrusive technology capable of measuring a driver’s cognitive state
  • The technology successfully recognizes real-time impairment caused by fatigue, alcohol or THC
  • The algorithms enable drivers and fleet managers to prevent driver error well in advance by creating a baseline for each driver and measuring deviation from the baseline
  • Products are hardware agnostic and can easily integrate with any existing DMS’s camera
  • Fills the void left by traditional DMS which only assesses the driver’s behavioral and physical status

And, last but not least, driver monitoring has grown own geometrically in demand the last year or so. A lot of that of course has to do with the fact that level five is not gonna happen as we know it for a long, long time. So the focus is now on level three and four and four plus because the driver has to remain in the vehicle. These guys are based in Israel; a very smart group of PhDs and other software engineers that are the first ones to be able to monitor a driver’s cognitive state. I’m not making that up. They use any hardware with a camera to set a baseline for the driver’s cognitive state before it gets behind the wheel and using this baseline, they can your deviations from the baseline based on intoxication, marijuana, fatigue, you name it.

This company is way past proof of concept. They have are the only ones that have been able to penetrate this cognitive state and it allows drivers of fleet managers to prevent driver error well in advance by their ability to create this baseline and look at the deviations. I would encourage you to look at ADAM’s video which is part of the offering today and tomorrow. It’s a lot to read and a lot to understand. I hope there’s a video in there. If not, we’d be glad to have them send you one, but it’s a very impressive technology. And it is importantly filling that void in the DMS I was talking about earlier. This has become so prolific for guys all over the world, Mobileye, NVIDIA, SIG Machines in Australia, particularly ADAM’s technology is, is quite unique and just is no longer about the driver falling asleep and his eyes closing, it’s about getting into his actually mental state based on sobriety testing, essentially.

Opportunities for Legacy Suppliers

So as a follow up for some of the things the guys that at McKinsey said, we get asked almost every day it seems by legacy suppliers on what kind of investments to make and where their dollars should be going. As you’ve heard already today, vehicle data is huge. Huge in a good way and huge in a bad way, depending upon which side of the repair fence you’re on. Meaning if you can’t access the data, you’re having a tough time. But it’s the, we, we have seen the dongle still in question. So we were very, we were very careful to clarify – there’s certain types of vehicle data that is still available and is still being used by DMS and fleet management companies everywhere.

Electrification, goes without saying, the electrification in the vehicle, as well as the infrastructure system around the world, is really, to us, the big gray area right now. The technology is there to do the vehicle as Tesla has shown, but the infrastructure is not. The trillions about to be spent on infrastructure will certainly help them, but it is gonna be awhile.
Logistics and fleet – probably number two on our hit list from worldwide investors. Most of you probably know that if you Google mobility investment banking, we usually show up first, so we get contacted by investors all over the world, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, eternity funds, you name it, telling us what they want, and we sort of value them and ask them. So right now I think electrification is first and logistics and fleet management around the world is second. These are big opportunities that are looking for dollars from all kinds of companies, including aftermarket suppliers. And by golly my time is up.

Last but not least last mile mobility, we’re seeing a lot of it. And honestly, the landscape is very littered.

We got a deal this week from a company based in Europe that has invented a, just incredibly unique, I don’t know how to describe it, delivery system organization and delivery system for the back of a van that saves a lot of time for UPS drivers and FedEx drivers and Amazon drivers and so forth. We are working with now to decide whether to incorporate it into the vehicle itself, which is quite exciting. So these three categories are big. There’s a lot of availability in it. If any of you legacy suppliers would like to talk with us about it, we’d be very pleased to do so. And there is our contact information.

All right, Dan, that was fantastic. It’s just so great to see some of these new technologies that are emerging and being commercialized. I do love your mention of ADAM CogTech. We did record a session with the CEO and it’s available in the on-demand content. And if I remember correctly, there is a short video embedded in that of their technology. And it is it’s it’s mind boggling with, what they are doing. No pun intended. Yeah, right. Exactly. No, I, I actually intended that one, but anyway. Yeah. So I got, I got one question for you here and, and and I think that this could really help our audience understand that your perspective where you’re coming from and you’re, you have such a unique visibility into all these different types of companies, technologies, the trends where things are headed and you even mentioned how we were raced, we were racing to AV and level five. We backed off of that, and now it’s focused on different areas. So you have a unique awareness. How does that awareness of all these emerging technologies help you advise your clients with their strategies?

Well, I think the first Chris, it helps us choose our clients. So we turn down more deals than we take, just because of what you just said. As, you know, as everybody listening knows, a lot of technology solutions are developed where there really are no problems. So we have to understand that a technology is commercializable, and if there’s not really a problem right then, there’s nothing for us to do. So the first answer to your question is it helps us advise prospective clients on whether they can obtain funding via us or via anybody else. And, you know, it’s tough to tell a grown man that his business is worthless, but we’ve had to do that a lot of times, both in the legacy industry and in the auto tech industry. Does that help?

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Exactly. And obviously you’re not gonna put your money into something that it’s not commercially viable and would not provide significant returns to you. And so that probably helps them. What about, what about some of the companies that do have commercially viable products and services? How do you advise them with, with all of this knowledge that you have?

So the, the first thing is it’s very easy for us to test the waters for them because of the strength of our proverbial Rolodex, we can make, you know, 10 calls and find out whether this is gonna be commercially acceptable to some of these guys. The landscape has become really littered in terms of who the investors are. I mentioned earlier, sovereign wealth funds and hedge funds and guys like that. And they own so many autotech companies now and automotive companies that they are our first go-to line. It’s easier to contact them than it is the tier and tier twos and aftermarket companies, because there’s no conflict – meaning that’s the other way we help these auto tech guys is they’re, you know, the word partner is sorely misused, ‘well, we are looking for a partner? And we’ve got to partner’. I said, okay, well, what exactly does that mean? What does that mean to you? Well, we are talking to brand name OEM, and they, they want to invest $10 million and we’re doing this, wait a minute, have you heard the word exclusivity or write a first refusal yet? So at that point it’s really guidance for them to try to get ’em to the proper investor without being conflicted. So, so far my answer to your question is guidance.

Okay. Excellent. Well, that’s fantastic. And thank you again for the insights and the peak into the future of where we’re headed with some of these technologies. So that was, that was outstanding.