A couple of Apple veterans recently unveiled a startup that they say offers a big leap for self-driving vehicles.
Aeva, based in Mountain View, makes a sensing system for cars that combines “key advantages of LiDAR, Radar, machine vision and high-accuracy motion sensing” all in one box. Founded last year, the company now has 50 employees and has raised $45 million.
The startup is working with some car and ride-hailing companies to integrate its systems in their vehicles, starting in the next year or two. Its technology also is already in some vehicle fleets today, although Aeva says it can’t disclose the names of its partners yet.
Aeva’s founders put together a team with expertise in various fields to develop its unique system.
“Creating a fundamentally new technology like this has required building a special team with a diverse range of expertise across LiDAR, radar, cameras, automotive design and supply chain, machine learning software, and large volume manufacturing,” co-founder Soroush Salehian said in a blog post announcing the company coming out of stealth mode.
“Once there’s a lot of sensors on the road, they start interfering with each other, getting blinded and not measuring accurately,” Salehian said in an interview recently. “Our system is completely immune to interference from other sensors, and sunlight. Our mission is safe, simple and scalable sensing technology.”
Safety is key, of course, because the sensing system functions as the eyes of autonomous vehicles and helps them make decisions.
Salehian and co-founder Mina Rezk both worked for Apple’s Special Projects Group before they left to start Aeva in January 2017.
Why leave Apple, which is working on its own self-driving technology?
“We’re passionate about the transport space, and we wanted to do something about the pace of the industry,” Salehian, who was product manager for Apple’s sensing systems group, said.
“We want to make a generational leap that’s not just good in performance, but costs little money and offers ways of seeing the world that has not been seen before,” said Rezk, who in addition to being a sensing engineering manager at Apple was at Nikon for more than a decade, including working on optical sensing for aerospace and autos.
Aeva’s system costs in the “few hundred dollars range,” Salehian said.
The startup’s funding round was led by Lux Capital and Canaan Partners.
Aeva is “not only giving cars a fresh set of eyes; it is putting perception into the sensor, thereby making autonomous cars simpler, safer, and more reliable,” said Shahin Farshchi, partner at Lux Capital, in a statement.