Continental Expands LiDAR Portfolio with Minority Investment in AEye

Continental has announced a minority investment in AEye, a California-based company specializing in computer vision and vehicle perception technology. As part of the agreement, Continental and AEye will develop a high performance, long-range LiDAR sensor based on AEye’s patented architecture. Said architecture employs an amplifiable 1550nm laser with a feedback-controlled micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) scanner.

According to the companies, the goal is to create something that can be scaled and commercialized for autonomous vehicles, whether passenger or commercial, with SAE Level 3 and above capability.

“ADAS solutions require a unique mix of performance, scalability, packaging, and a long-term commitment to reliability and safety,” explained Blair LaCorte, CEO of AEye Inc. “Continental is a recognized leader in automotive sensing technology as well as in automotive product industrialization and commercialization.”

Significance of AEye’s LiDAR Platform

According to Continental, AEye’s LiDAR portfolio was one of the primary reasons behind the minority investment. Continental notes that AEye’s technology can be configured (via software) according to each vehicle’s specific application. AEye provides both high dynamic spatial resolution and long-range detection, something that also encouraged Continental to continue a dialogue with AEye. This type of detailed optimization and performance, according to Continental, is ideal for both commercial and passenger vehicles.

AEye’s LiDAR has three different detection ranges, each with its own individual significance. They are as follows:   

  1. AEye’s LiDAR can detect vehicles at a distance of more than 300 meters.
  2. Will identify pedestrians and other road users at a distance of over 200 meters.
  3. The ability to detect low-reflective objects at a distance of 160 meters. 
Point cloud image from AEye's long-range, software-definable LiDAR.
 Point cloud image from AEye’s long-range, software-definable LiDAR. Photo: AEye Inc.

Series Production Scheduled

Continental will leverage these capabilities to deliver what they describe as a “fully automotive-grade product” for series production at the end of 2024. In the near term, the partnership with AEye will support Continental’s existing short-range 3D Flash LiDAR technology, scheduled for series production later this year.

“We now have optimum short-range and world-class long-range LiDAR technologies with their complementary set of benefits under one roof,” said Frank Petznick, head of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit at Continental. “This puts us in a strong position to cover the full vehicle environment with state-of-the-art LiDAR sensor technology and to facilitate Automated Driving at SAE levels 3 or higher in both passenger cars and commercial vehicle applications.”

“We look forward to working closely with their team to customize our modular and scalable design to deliver Continentals high-performance long-range LiDAR systems to the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers,” LaCorte added.

Continental also noted their belief that the MEMS-based design of AEye’s LiDAR provides tremendous solid-state reliability while also delivering top-tier performance in adverse weather and road conditions.