Military-grade radar commercialised for civilian self-driving vehicles

Military-grade radar commercialised for civilian self-driving vehicles

Market news |
By Wisse Hettinga

The company offers a patented military-proven ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology that it claims significantly improves navigation safety and precision on any road by keeping self-driving vehicles precisely in-lane. Several pilot programs are currently underway with leading global players in the automotive and technology sectors, the company says, and it is also currently closing a $3 million seed round.

The company’s technology complements existing self-driving vehicle sensors – such as GPS/INS, radar, LiDAR, and cameras – to keep vehicles precisely in-lane, especially in poor weather conditions where lane markings don’t exist or are unclear and confusing. Unlike current self-driving systems that rely solely on above-ground sensors like GPS, LiDAR, and cameras to identify the exact position of the vehicle, says the company, the addition of subsurface data will give self-driving vehicles a comprehensive capability to know their exact position at all times.

WaveSense uses ground-penetrating radar to build a subterranean fingerprint of roadways and maps and tracks against unique geologic patterns. It scans up to 10 feet below the road to lock on to stable underground features.

As the vehicle drives, the GPR technology continually scans the subsurface soil layers, rocks, and road bedding about 126 times per second and compares the scans to its onboard image database to determine the exact vehicle position in relation to the road. This mode of navigation, says the company, has been demonstrated to be accurate to within a few centimeters (approximately 1 inch) at standard highway speeds, even during night time white-out snowstorm conditions.

“A massive transformation in transportation and mobility is underway around the world as autonomous systems advance,” says Tarik Bolat, WaveSense CEO. “But before broad adoption of self-driving vehicles can occur, navigation safety and reliability must improve significantly. WaveSense’s technology radically improves the safety of self-driving vehicles in all conditions and provides the confidence and reliability our sector must demonstrate in order to earn the public’s trust.”

The company’s technology was originally developed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for the military, and the first systems using it were deployed in Afghanistan in 2013 in conditions where road markings were poor or non-existent and obstruction from poor visibility was commonplace. WaveSense was founded in 2017 and is funded by Rhapsody Venture Partners, a Cambridge, MA-based venture fund, which led the recent seed funding round.


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