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Aeva launches ‘4D’ LiDAR on chip for autonomous driving

16 Dec 2019

Sensing systems developer also claims vote of confidence from VW Group with Porsche SE investment.

Aeva, a company developing next-generation sensing systems for autonomous vehicles, says it has “achieved a critical milestone for the autonomous vehicles industry,” explaining, “Aeries, a frequency-modulated continuous wave LiDAR system integrates all the key elements of a LiDAR sensor into a miniaturized photonics chip.”

The so-called 4D LiDAR-on-chip educes the size and power of the device by orders of magnitude while achieving full range performance of over 300m for low reflective objects and the ability to measure instant velocity for every point, which Aeva describes as "a first for the autonomous vehicle industry." This LiDAR-on-chip is expected to cost less than $500 at scale, in contrast to the typical tens of thousands of dollars for conventional LiDAR sensors.

“One of the biggest roadblocks to bringing autonomous vehicles to the mainstream has been the lack of a high-performance and low-cost LiDAR that can scale to millions of units per year,” said Soroush Salehian, co-founder of Aeva. “From the beginning we’ve believed that the only way to truly address this problem was to build a unique LiDAR-on-chip sensing system that can be manufactured at silicon scale.”

New approach

Unlike other LiDAR technologies, Aeva’s 4D LiDAR-on-chip measures the instant velocity of every point on objects beyond 300m. Aeva’s LiDAR is also free from interference from other sensors or sunlight and it operates at only fractions of the optical power typically required to achieve such long range performance, increasing the factor of safety and scalability for autonomous driving.

Aeva says its sensor functionality also differs from other FMCW approaches in its ability to provide multiple millions of points per second for each beam, "resulting in unprecedented, ultra high fidelity data.”

“Not all FMCW LiDARs are created equally,” said Mina Rezk, another co-founder of Aeva. “A key differentiator of our approach is breaking the dependency between maximum range and points density, which has been a barrier for time-of-flight and FMCW LiDARs so far. Our 4D LiDAR integrates multiple beams on a chip, each beam uniquely capable of measuring more than 2 million points per second at distances beyond 300m.”

Support from VW and Porsche

Porsche SE, a majority voting shareholder of the Volkswagen Group, recently made a significant investment into Aeva, which the Mountain View, CA, company described as "an endorsement of Aeva’s approach by one of the world’s largest car makers." This investment is Porsche SE’s only investment in LiDAR technology and expands on the existing partnership between Aeva and Audi’s self-driving unit.

Aeva was founded in 2017 by Salehian and Rezk, previously engineers at Apple and Nikon. The company is already backed by investors including Lux Capital, Canaan Partners as well as Porsche SE.

“We have scanned the market closely and believe Aeva’s 4D LiDAR on a chip technology is the best LiDAR solution on the market, solving a fundamental bottleneck for perception in taking autonomous driving to mass scale,” said Alex Hitzinger, Senior VP of Autonomous Driving at VW Group and CEO of VW Autonomy GmbH. “Together we are looking into using Aeva’s 4D LiDAR for our VW ID Buzz AV, which is scheduled to launch in 2022-23.”

“Aeva’s next generation 4D LiDAR system, Aeries, features a 120-degree field-of-view at only half the size of Aeva’s first product. Aeries meets the final production requirements for autonomous driving robo-taxis and large volume ADAS customers and will be available for use in development vehicles in the first half of 2020."

The Aeries system will be launched at CES 2020 from January 7-10 at Las Vegas Convention Center (Booth 7525 located at Tech East, North Hall).

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