Coffee Talk: Bernd Reichert
We recently sat down with Bernd Reichert, AEye’s Senior Vice President of Automotive based in Germany, to discuss his background, his role at AEye, the challenges and opportunities in the automotive industry and where AEye is headed.
1. You were previously VP of Sales and Business Development for Global Driving Assistance at Valeo, where you were responsible for a multi-billion dollar market segment serving OEMs worldwide. What caused you to make the jump to AEye?
During my time at Valeo, the company became a leading advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) supplier. As many know, high-end ADAS features and autonomous driving require lidar.
I was drawn to AEye because of its disruptive technology and capital-efficient business model, which allows us to be more profitable than the traditional Tier 1 companies that operate with low, single-digit operating profits. AEye’s high-performance, adaptive lidar has already been validated and is what OEMs want. Not to mention that Continental, one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world, selected AEye’s lidar as their high-performance ADAS sensor. AEye’s technology is a game changer for the automotive industry and will play a key role in accelerating the rollout of safety-enhancing ADAS features.
The fantastic team and spirit at AEye also convinced me in the various discussions before I started. Today, despite being located in Germany, I am very well-connected and friends with many people at my company.
2. Can you tell us a bit about your role at AEye?
At AEye, I build and lead a globally distributed ADAS sales and business development team, which is responsible for accelerating the worldwide deployment of AEye’s lidar across automotive and commercial trucking. My team and I work closely with AEye’s Tier 1 partners, who leverage AEye’s adaptive lidar technology to create their own industry-leading products for advanced driver assist active safety features.
3. AEye’s relationship with Tier 1s is unique. Can you tell us a bit about AEye’s business model and how it works?
AEye licenses its platform to Tier 1 partners, like Continental, who then customize and manufacture their own products to sell to automobile manufacturers. Continental has built its HRL131 Long Range Lidar on AEye’s 4Sight™ Intelligent Sensing Platform, with a scheduled SOP of 2025.
Because of our business model, we can focus on innovating the technology, while our Tier 1 partners focus on industrializing and commercializing automotive-grade products at scale. They manage the entire product life cycle, including handling sales, warranty and support.
4. Where do you see the automotive industry headed?
We will see most personal vehicles transition from Level 2+ to Level 3 as the technology is validated. However, the rollout is slow. There are a few exceptions where OEMs have started to announce and deploy Level 3 functionality, such as the Mercedes S-Class and EQS Sedan, launched in 2022 and 2023 in Germany and Nevada, respectively, and limited to 60kph. The other example is the Honda Legend, originally intended to be shown at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and ultimately debuting in 2021, due to the Olympics postponement, with a limited production of 100 vehicles. Hyundai Motor Group also announced Level 3 capability for its Genesis G90 in 2023 with highway drive pilot and speeds up to 80kph.
OEMs are currently selling Level 2+ features, and Level 3 functions will gradually roll out to customers via over-the-air updates. This model will provide software revenue streams for OEMs in line with the development of the software-defined vehicle. Legal gaps will determine the transition from Level 2+ to Level 3 rather than the technology.
Level 4 will come much sooner for trucking because they have a business case for it. However, for robotaxis to achieve Level 4 autonomy, a sustainable business model will be necessary before scaling.
5. AEye recently conducted a Safer Mobility Survey with PAVE. In the survey, 75% of consumers surveyed worry about road collisions, but a similar percentage believe that technology could help. What are your thoughts on these statistics from the automotive perspective?
The good news is that consumers are optimistic about technology’s role in advancing road safety. The survey results showed 82% of respondents feel safer with technology-driven Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in vehicles, and 78% of respondents believe technology is important in solving driving safety issues.
Safety-related ADAS features are becoming more standard over time, and consumers will come to expect these features in future vehicles as the public becomes more comfortable with them. However, education is key to improving user adoption and the understanding of these life-saving features. Investments in ADAS or autonomous vehicle technology can provide a solution for increasing roadway safety for all.
6. How will AEye’s technology help improve road safety?
Accidents can take place anywhere and at any time. To improve roadway safety and address the complex scenarios of the road, a robust software-defined sensing solution that can dynamically adapt its scan patterns and field of view is required.
At AEye, we envision safer roads for a safer future. Our unique software-defined lidar helps vehicles accurately detect and track objects on the road in real-time, in adverse weather or low lighting conditions, further supporting the implementation of ADAS and smart infrastructure that protect drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike.
7. Just for fun, what’s your favorite mode of transportation and why?
If I’m being honest, I don’t have a favorite because I usually try to optimize my time for commuting or traveling, so I typically pick my mode of transportation based on those factors. In my hometown of Karlsruhe, Germany, which has a population of just over 300,000, my favorite mode of transportation is my eMTB with a nice Bosch CX drive unit.
As an automotive veteran, I, of course, love cars. My current car is a BMW 530. However, I prefer to travel by train, especially the Shinkansen in Japan, the TGV in France, and the high-speed train (the ICE) in Germany.