How can developers ensure that the software driving an autonomous vehicle (AV) won’t “crash” or fail on the road? How can consumers be confident that robots meet the highest safety, security, and reliability standards? These are critical questions that autonomous systems must answer to successfully and safely escape the lab.
At Toyota AI Ventures, we look for entrepreneurs that have the vision to conceive of broad-market solutions, the expertise to bring them to life, and the tenacity to see them through. We found that combination in the team at Apex.AI, and I’m so pleased to announce our investment in them.
Founded by Jan Becker and Dejan Pangercic, Apex.AI is developing a reliable, safe, and certified software for autonomous mobility that builds on the Robot Operating System (ROS) open-source framework. Think of Apex.AI’s framework as the Software Development Kit (SDK) for autonomous driving. Similar to the way the mobile phone operating systems (OS), like the iPhone OS and Android OS, have created an ecosystem where developers can build applications, Apex.AI is doing the same for AV developers for the “Car OS.”
Apex.AI’s initial product offerings include Apex.OS and Apex.Autonomy. The first is a flexible, robust software framework based on the latest version of ROS, known as ROS 2, where developers can build production-grade applications. With Apex. Autonomy, developers can choose from a set of software “building blocks” to create a custom autonomy stack. To start, Apex.AI is offering its own LiDAR processing solution, and the team plans to partner with other companies to offer additional layers of the stack.
The Apex.AI team is committed to an ecosystem approach where they and others contribute to the continued evolution of ROS and another open source project known as Autoware, an autonomous driving stack that sits on top of ROS. They demonstrated that commitment by co-founding the Autoware Foundation, a non-profit organization that includes supporters like Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD), ARM, and Intel, among others.
CEO Jan Becker and CTO Dejan Pangercic started Apex.AI in 2017, and they have long been active in the autonomous driving and robotics communities. Most recently, they worked together at Faraday Future. Prior to that, Jan led AV development at Bosch and was a lecturer at Stanford University, where he continues to teach a course on the future of automated driving. Jan has 20+ years of AV experience going back to his days at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany where he developed early autonomous driving systems. He was also a member of Stanford’s team in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. Dejan worked at Bosch as well, where he developed robots before going on to become a CTO at Deepfield Robotics. He has been working with ROS for over a decade and received his doctorate in robotics from the Technical University Munich.
True to their open-source roots, the Apex.AI team believes that autonomy is a huge challenge that would benefit from community collaboration — a vision that we share.
While Apex.OS is initially aiming at the automotive market, their software framework is application-agnostic so it can be used by other autonomous systems — from industrial robotics to aerospace vehicles. As autonomous systems migrate from research and development to real-world production, Apex.AI’s focus on reliability and security becomes ever more mission-critical.
It’s a mission we’re proud to be a part of. Toyota AI Ventures joins the company’s $15.5M Series A round, announced last November, alongside lead investor Canaan Partners and seed investor Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Visit the Apex.AI website to learn more and apply to join this all-star team.
Author: Jim Adler