PreAct Technologies: Novel Sensing Technology for Safer Cars
“Any car that’s equipped with our sensors and edge processing will have a heads up that a crash is imminent, and the intelligence to deploy countermeasures to save lives and reduce injuries.”
Despite advances in automotive safety technology, the number of car crashes, injuries, and deaths increase every year. While car crashes may be inevitable, injuries and deaths from those crashes shouldn’t be. In fact, a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that if one could predict a collision a quarter of a second before the actual crash, they could prevent up to 80 percent of all injuries and deaths, just by using airbags and seat belts designed to respond upon warning.
Paul Drysch, Co-Founder and CEO of PreAct Technologies, shares how his team aims to radically transform vehicle safety through technology that takes life-saving action before an imminent crash happens.
How does PreAct Technologies’ system improve vehicle safety?
[PD] Current automotive technology is reactive. There’s an accelerometer buried on the bottom of the car, and when it registers a certain level of g-forces, it will explode the airbag — but this is after the fact. It takes about 20 milliseconds for the accelerometer to register and send the message to the airbag system, but only 50 milliseconds or so for an occupant to hit something hard if not restrained. That’s why airbags explode so forcefully and where many injuries come from. Many other injuries happen because people are not in an ideal position.
Any car that’s equipped with our sensors and edge processing — PreAct’s TrueSense™ Pre-collision System — will have a heads up that a crash is imminent, and the intelligence to deploy countermeasures to save lives and reduce injuries. Our system offers a warning time of up to 600 milliseconds, during which we can angle car seats away from the impact of a crash and even raise the suspension before the moment of impact. We can also deploy larger, multi-stage airbags earlier, avoiding the use of explosive force, and engage pre-crash seat belts to put passengers into more secure positions.
How did PreAct get started, and where are you now?
[PD] Our parent company, Artis, LLC, spent more than 10 years and over $100 million developing active protection systems for the military. Sensors and countermeasures are mounted on armored vehicles that detect, track, and shoot down incoming missiles or projectiles before impact. Keith Brendley owns Artis and I knew his son, Kurt, through the automotive industry. Kurt had the initial idea to apply this military technology to vehicle safety applications. He pitched me the original concept, and I helped him flesh it out into a product that the market would embrace. Six months later, after some initial analyses, we founded PreAct, with me as CEO, Kurt as COO, Keith as CTO, and Artis footing the bill until our first round.
We were able to jumpstart our project using knowledge from Artis and some of the intellectual property. We developed our own time-of-flight imaging technology, applying a number of unique features for a system that’s similar to LiDAR but thousands of dollars less expensive per unit.
We now have roughly 15 engineers working on the PreAct team, and a number of customers that are either automotive OEMs or tier one suppliers. We’ve been shipping demonstration kits for six months and we’ll have a production-ready product in Q1 of 2022.
What has been most helpful in advancing the company?
[PD] Kurt and I both come from the auto industry. I previously led automotive efforts for a company called Jasper, a vehicle telematics startup that was acquired by Cisco. I also helped launch WirelessCar, another major telematics company that is now owned by VW. I’ve seen a lot of auto tech startups fail simply by not understanding how the industry works. It’s one that’s very difficult to break into without prior relationships and credibility. It takes time to prove yourself; plus it’s a very long sales cycle, which a lot of startups don’t take into consideration. Industry experience and proven technology with a parent company have both been critical to our success.
What led your team to the Luminate accelerator?
[PD] We previously participated in two accelerator programs, Plug and Play and Creative Destruction Lab (CDL). Plug and Play is great for attracting first customers, while CDL is built more around strategy and mentoring the CEO and founder. We were attracted to Luminate because of the accelerator’s resources, training, and access to optics experts. Luminate is all about optics and photonics, which has proven to be an incredibly valuable resource for us. It’s been helpful to be part of a program that focuses on our most pressing technical challenges while covering all facets of running a business.
Any advice for someone who is thinking about launching a startup?
[PD] Be prepared for a lot of highs and a lot of lows. There will be days when you think you’re going to be a billionaire, and the next day you might think you aren’t going to make it at all! You have to possess the tenacity to keep going after you trip and fall.