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GPR Military Tech Could Help Self-Driving Cars Better Navigate Snowy Roads

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Many autonomous vehicles use a combination of HD map, GPS, and a sensor to detect their surroundings. However, some companies are experimenting with a more advanced radar technology that would enhance AV performance on snowy roads. New startup WaveSense is applying ground-penetrating radar to self-driving cars. MIT Lincoln Laboratory originally developed this technology for the purpose for the military, to detect improvised explosive devices and buried mines.

How it works

The GPR mounts to the underside of the AV to detect the road beneath. The technology scans the ground below, up to 10 feet deep, and employs 120Hz to build a map of this underground layer. It then contrasts the data with a map of previously-collected GPR data for the road network. This, in turn, improves the car’s traction and precise placement on the road.

Though some might worry about pre-mapping expenses, these should be less costly than conventional LIDAR systems. That’s because GPR relies on below-ground conditions which change less rapidly than above-ground ones.

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The road to implementation

Per WaveSense CEO Tarik Bolat, the sensor should cost approximately $100 per vehicle. The technology will also need few modifications before implementation, since the military’s use of GPR has already tweaked it. WaveSense is currently dialoguing with some AV programs and automakers to pave the way for incorporating GPR.

At this point, we’re not sure which OEMs have expressed interest in GPR, but there’s a chance that GM will be one of them. With its fast-track plan to implement Cruise AV in public vehicles by 2019, and a history of partnering with the military via concept vehicles, it’s likely that GM will eagerly latch onto this new application of military tech that promises to boost AV performance.

Stay tuned for more details in the days ahead as WaveSense starts promoting this exciting new radar technology.

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News Source: Ars Technica