Aeva shrinks LiDAR sensor to fit on single chip: report

Aeva shrinks LiDAR sensor to fit on single chip
Aeva Inc.’s "Aeries" LiDAR unit for autonomous vehicles is seen in this undated handout photo. (Reuters)

Startup LiDAR sensor company Aeva Inc. has reportedly shrunk the main components of its LiDAR self-driving car sensor onto a single chip, which could dramatically lower the price of LiDAR sensors, according to a Reuters report.

The Reuters report also said the company, founded by ex-Apple Inc. engineers Soroush Salehian and Mina Rezk, received an undisclosed investment from Porsche Automobil Holding SE, the majority-voting shareholder of Volkswagen AG.

The investment follows a previous deal in April with the Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit of Audi, another Volkswagen company, which will use the LiDAR sensor on its “e-tron” development fleet vehicles in Munich, Germany, according to Reuters.

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Aeva’s "Aeries" sensor reportedly uses a different technology than other LiDAR units currently being tested on the road, which have spinning parts and send out powerful laser bursts. Aeva’s sensor has no moving parts and uses a less powerful continuous wave. This design is enabling the company to package the key sensor parts onto a chip about the size of a U.S. quarter. The parts can be made in the same factories that currently make data center networking chips, the report said.

The report quoted Aeva as saying it can sell sensors for less than $500 that can see 300 meters (984 feet) ahead. Early next year, Aeva plans to release a unit that is half the size of its predecessor but with a field of view which is twice as wide at 120 degrees. A smaller, final production version will be ready by 2022, according to the report.

The falling cost and size of the units prompted Volkswagen to partner more deeply with the startup, said Alex Hitzinger, senior vice president of autonomous driving at Volkswagen and chief executive of subsidiary Volkswagen Autonomy, in the report.

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