Sensors play a very important role in the functioning of autonomous cars. Perhaps the word “important” would undermine the value that it imparts. Predominantly there are three types of sensors that currently being used on autonomous cars: Cameras, Radars and Lidars. With technology and other advancements, a new type of Lidar could eliminate the need for radar while also being more accurate, improving a car’s awareness of its surroundings and potentially trimming the total cost of its sensor package.
The new sensor, known as a “Continuous-Wave Lidar” uses a continuous laser beam rather than a pulse to determine the distance between itself and other objects. With this, the Lidar can more accurately gauge distance and speed in one package. In the last few years, researchers at universities and companies have been exploring continuous-wave Lidar, including those at Aeva, a startup founded by two alumni of Apple’s Special Project’s Group.
“I don’t even think of this as a new kind of Lidar,” said Tarin Ziyaee, co-founder and chief technology officer at the self-driving taxi start-up Voyage, who has seen the Aeva prototype. “It’s a whole different animal.”
Aeva reportedly aims to sell the new sensor next year. These sensors are stacked with two major qualities that autonomous vehicles will need in order to operate safely; supreme accuracy and sense objects over longer distances.