A new startup is planning to commercialize radar technology developed in the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. This ground penetrating radar technology could help self-driving cars to closely analyze features beneath the ground to guide the car in a safer manner.
WaveSense says that its ground-penetrating radar will work in tandem with other sensors used in a typical autonomous vehicle for giving the vehicle precise location information even when weather conditions are really bad as in the case of sandstorms or very stormy weather.
WaveSense was established in 2017, but was launched publicly just recently with USD 3 million in funding. WaveSense’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Byron Stanley, spent over 15 years perfecting the technology while working at the MIT Lincoln Lab, a research facility run by the US Department of Defense research facility. The technology was used in 2013 on military vehicles deployed in Afghanistan, so that they could navigate the roads there with minimal issues though there were few traditional road markings.
Wavesense is now keen to make the technology available on a commercial basis to vehicle manufacturers, parts suppliers and other companies who are working on the development of fully autonomous vehicles. Generally autonomous vehicles which are currently being tested use a combination of cameras, lidar sensors and above-ground radar sensors for navigation. However, when there are no visible landmarks on a flat road or when there is a heavy snowstorm, these sensors are not adequate. In such a situation, WaveSense’s technology could still be of use as it depends on underground “landmarks” like changes in soil conditions, pipes, rocks and roots to help a vehicle assess its location. These factors do not change with the weather.
Wavesense’s co-founder and CEO Tarak Bolat said that even if the camera and the lidar are failing, it is very unlikely that Wavesense’s technology would fail. He said that if Wavesense begins production of its sensors on a commercial scale, the cost of each sensor could be as low as USD 100 or even less. Of course, the technology can only be used when a vehicle is going on roads that have already been driven and mapped. So far, Wavesense has subterranean maps of 10,000 miles worth of roadways in New England thanks to testing done at Lincoln Lab.
Bolat said WaveSense is already launching pilot programs with some large automakers, but declined to share more details. Bolat and Stanley are currently headquartered in the Greentown Labs incubator in Somerville.
Hamid Moaref has always been fascinated by cars and the automotive industry. His family has a longstanding association with the industry and has been in the tire business for the past 35 years. Raised in Dubai, Hamid attended Capilano University in Vancouver where he graduated with a BBA in marketing before attending an intensive course in magazine publishing in 2005. He has been the publisher and chief editor of Tires & Parts magazine for the past ten years.
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