The self-driving unit of Audi has tapped a startup venture which has a unique approach to Lidar. Audi aims to ramp up it’s testing in Munich by using a fleet of self-driving electric crossover vehicles.
The subsidiary of Audi called the Autonomous Intelligent Driving, or AID has stated on Wednesday that it is using the Lidar sensors which have been developed by Aeva, a startup venture founded just 24 months ago by Apple and Nikon veterans.
Aeva, which is a California based company was started by Soroush Salehian and Mina Reza. This startup venture has already developed the 4D Lidar technology which aims to build on the previous Lidar sensors and improve its functionality. This technology can measure distance as well as instant velocity without losing its range, and all of this can be done while preventing interference from the rays of the sun or other sensors inside the vehicle. When you move past this 4D branding gimmick, you will notice that this tech has some compelling ramifications.
Lidar, which is a light detection and ranging radar, measures the distance from vehicles. It is coupled with other sensors in a car to build a virtual map for the car’s computer to navigate upon. It is considered by many people in the self-driving industry as a critical and necessary sensor.
Currently, there are dozens of Lidar startups that have mushroomed all across the world. These companies are promising technological breakthroughs that will offer more affordable sensors with better resolution and accuracy than the current industry standard. This is a very difficult promise to keep, especially because many of these companies lack the ability to scale up manufacturing of their devices for this rapidly developing industry.
Traditional Lidar sensors are only able to determine the distance by sending out high-powered pulses of light which are outside the visible spectrum, and then they track how long it takes for each of these pulses to return to its source. As these pulses come back, the direction of, and the distance to, whatever those pulses hit are recorded as a point and eventually, this helps to form a 3D map of the surrounding environment of the vehicle.
Aeva’s sensors emit a continuous beam of low-powered laser, which allows the company to sense the instant velocity of every point in the frame at ranges of up to 300 meters. Aeva’s sensors are able to determine the distance as well as the direction and the speed of the objects coming to or moving away from them.
If Aeva actually manages to replicate this new technology on a massive scale, it will prove to be a handy perception feature for self-driving vehicles which operate in an environment where different objects are traveling at different speeds, like the pedestrians and other vehicles on the street.
Aeva is a startup venture that is backed by Lux Capital and Canaan Partners. The company says that its sensors are also unique because they are don’t interfere with other elements such as the sun or other objects.
It was this combination of long-range perception, instantaneous velocity measurements at cm/s precision and robustness to interferences that sold Alexandre Haag, who is the CTO of AID on the 4D Lidar sensors. The startup company spent almost 18 months going through a validation process with Audi and its parent company Volkswagen.