4D lidar chip holds promise of mass scale autonomous vehicles

The Aeries frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar-on-chip sensing system provides high range performance and low cost to take autonomous driving to mass scale, claims Aeva.

The Aeries system integrates key elements of a lidar sensor into a miniaturised photonics chip, says Aeva. The company claims that its 4D lidar-on-chip significantly reduces the size and power of the device while achieving full range performance of over 300m for low reflective objects and the ability to measure instant velocity for every point; this is a first for the autonomous vehicle industry, says Aeva. The lidar-on-chip will cost less than $500 at scale, compared with $10,000s for today’s 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, Aeva’s co-founder. “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.”

A distinguishing approach by Aeva is for the Aeries sensing system to measure 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 a fraction of the optical power typically required to achieve long range performance. These factors contribute to increasing the factor of safety and scalability for autonomous driving.

Aeva also differs from other FMCW approaches by being able to provide multiple millions of points per second for each beam, resulting in high fidelity data that has been unprecedented until today, claims the company.

Co-founder, Mina Rezk, explains: “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 . . . Our 4D lidar integrates multiple beams on a chip, each . . .capable of measuring more than two million points per second at distances beyond 300m.”

Porsche SE, a majority voting shareholder of the Volkswagen Group, has recently invested in Aeva, expanding the existing partnership between Aeva and Audi’s self-driving unit (Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group). Aeva points out that this is Porsche’s only investment in lidar technology to date.

Alex Hitzinger, senior vice president of Autonomous Driving at VW Group and CEO of VW Autonomy, said: “Together we are looking into using Aeva’s 4D lidar for our VW ID Buzz AV, which is scheduled to launch in 2022/23.”

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.

Aeva will unveil Aeries at CES 2020 (7 to 10 January) at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Booth 7525, Tech East, North Hall).


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