WaveSense is utilizing ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology created by MIT to make self-driving vehicles safer.The technology is able to develop a detailed map of roads sub-surfaces, which are all unique in their make-up. By using Mapping vehicles the radar can record the composition of the roadway. Autonomous cars fitted with the same technology can then rescan the surface as it drives comparing the findings in real-time to the “master map.”
The GPR technology is able to keep the car centered in all conditions, even if road markings are not visible. Although autonomous cars will still need additional ADAS systems, the GPR technology will add an additional element of safety.
The idea emerged from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, where the latest tech for the National Defense is also created. This allowed the GPR technology to be tested in military trucks enabling human drivers to be replaced by autonomous ones. According to WaveSense’s website, GPR has “proven to be a successful in a military context. After years of development, MIT’s ultra-wide band radar was first deployed in Afghanistan in 2013. The technology allowed military vehicles to stay on previously-mapped routes by matching radar measurements with maps of subterranean geology. This enabled precise navigation of 9-ton military vehicles, despite unmarked lanes and poor visibility from sand and dust.”
GPR is expected to appear in self-driving cars around 2024 and the cost is a fraction of the price of LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. LIDAR may no longer be necessary when this new system comes into use, as it can operate in all weather conditions, unlike LIDAR.
The WaveSense mission statement sums up the purpose of the technology saying, “Self-driving vehicles will save millions of lives and transform the economy. Before they become mainstream, they need to be able to navigate safely and reliably in all types of road and weather conditions. WaveSense’s map enables just that by radically reducing navigation failure rates.”