Former Apple engineers claim lidar breakthrough

The startup has ditched narrow scanning beams in favor of a continuous wave of light, claimed to capture more detail and velocity data.

A pair of former Apple engineers is working on a new form of lidar technology that aims to resolve many shortcomings of current scanning-beam systems.

Rather than relying on narrow laser beams that must be constantly moving to create a complete picture, Aeva's system emits a broad continuous beam. A New York Times report suggests the approach provides a more detailed image and adds velocity tracking, essentially bridging the divide between different forms of data captured by current lidar and radar systems.

Aeva was founded by Soroush Salehian and Mina Rezk, both of whom worked on an Apple 'special project.' The pair did not elaborate on their specific responsibilities, however their current focus is clearly a close fit for Apple's autonomous car project.

Lidar is only one of many types of sensors used in autonomous vehicles but appears to represent one of the biggest challenges as the technology matures from the lab to the assembly line. Highlighting perhaps the most significant issue, General Motors' first "mass producible" fully autonomous car appeared to be equipped with $40,000 worth of lidar sensors.

Several companies are working on cheaper lidar systems but some experts suggest none have demonstrated a sensor that pairs realistic production costs and high enough range and resolution to effectively operate at highway speeds.

Rezk claims Aeva's lidar system offers superior range and resolution, improved performance in adverse weather, less interference from nearby lidar devices and better recognition of reflective objects.

Aeva is one of several smaller startups hoping to compete against established suppliers as automakers begin to sell the first highly automated vehicles in coming years.

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