WaveSense, a Massachusetts startup developing ground positioning radar, has changed its name to GPR and released a new generation radar system it is calling Aegis.
The Somerville, Mass.-based company has commercialized ground penetrating radar, originally developed for the U.S. military at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. It now could help solve remaining challenges for autonomous vehicles.
Most autonomous vehicles currently being tested rely on a combination of global positioning system (GPS), lidar and cameras. GPS requires good cellular connectivity, not always available in remote rural locations. Lidar, which uses lasers bouncing off surrounding objects to navigate the vehicle, and cameras, which can detect signs and road markings, can’t always provide accurate information, especially in heavy rain, snow or even in heavy fog.
Ground penetrating radar can map the road structure beneath a vehicle. That sub-structure is unique and stable, much like a fingerprint. So it can enable vehicles to find their position, no matter how remote, reliably and accurately regardless of the road conditions or visibility of road markings above ground.
The new Aegis system is GPR’s third generation of the technology. It is 80% smaller than the previous version and consumes less power.
“Aegis marks an inflection point in GPR’s evolution as our company is set to tap massive unmet demand from automakers to deliver autonomous features that work even in some of the toughest road conditions,” said Tarik Bolat, co-founder and CEO of GPR.
Byron Stanley, GPR’s other co-founder and now chief technology officer, said Aegis will provide more precise and reliable positioning information to the vehicle.
GPR has some major auto industry guidance. Its board of directors include Joe Hinrichs, former head of Ford’s global automotive operations; Chuck Stevens, former General Motors
Earlier this year, GPR announced a $15 million funding round, led by Rhapsody Venture Partners and Impossible Ventures.
The company is testing the technology with certain automakers and suppliers that it has declined to name.
Aegis is bolted underneath a chassis behind the front wheel. It can scan up to 10 beneath the ground, taking into account the soil density, location of pipes, cavities, roots, rocks and other objects. From those images it can create a high-definition map.
With lidar and cameras it is more difficult to capture changes in the surrounding environment.
“You are really dependent on a stable surface,” CEO Bolat told Forbes.com contributor Steve Banker in 2018. “The foliage on trees when it is mapped, the level of clarity and continuity of lane markings and the visibility of above ground structures such as signs and buildings can create instability for vehicle positioning.”
Bolat sees GPR’s technology as adding value to other automated driver assist systems, including lidar and cameras, rather than replacing them.