WaveSense Brings its Patented Military Grade Ground-Penetrating Radar to Self-Driving Vehicles

WaveSense Inc has commercialized its patented military-proven ground-penetrating radar (GPR). The radar is meant for improving navigation safety and precision on the road by keeping self-driving vehicles precisely in-lane. The company has several pilots underway with leading global players in the automotive and technology sectors and is currently closing a $3 million seed round led by Rhapsody Venture Partners.

Recent fatalities tragically underscore the inherent safety limitations of current self-driving vehicle technologies. Autonomous vehicles need to become safer for before widespread consumer adoption, ride hailing and adoption by the trucking industry. WaveSense’s patented technology complements existing self-driving vehicle sensors - GPS/INS, radar, lidar, cameras - to keep vehicles precisely in-lane, especially in poor weather conditions including snow, rain and fog and where lane markings do not exist or are unclear and confusing.

Current systems used by leading players in self-driving vehicles that solely rely on above ground sensors like GPS, lidar and cameras to identify the exact position of the vehicle are insufficient, often handicapped by visibility issues, and struggle with weather and constant changes in the above-ground driving environment. With the addition of subsurface data to above-ground sensor information, self-driving cars will have a comprehensive capability to know their exact position at all times.

Using ground-penetrating radar, WaveSense builds 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 and keep self-driving vehicles safely and precisely in-lane. As the vehicle drives, WaveSense 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 has been demonstrated to be accurate to within a few centimeters (approximately 1 inch) at standard highway speeds, even during night time whiteout snowstorm conditions.

WaveSense’s mapping and sensor system improves navigation safety for self-driving vehicles:

  • It is robust and precise in conditions where lidar, camera and GPS can falter, such as snow, heavy rain, fog, sand and dust, tunnels, poor or missing lane markings and dynamic dense urban settings
  • Independent Layers of Safety: the map is independent of dynamic environments above ground and adds a vital layer of security that improves overall navigation failure rates by orders of magnitude, even in clear weather
  • The subsurface map is highly stable compared to surface maps and, as a result, needs to be scanned and updated much less frequently
  • WaveSense’s proprietary algorithms determine car's exact location in five-dimensional space           

Originally developed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for the military, the first systems were deployed in Afghanistan in 2013 in conditions where road markings were poor or non-existent and obstruction from poor visibility was commonplace. When precisely locating a vehicle means the difference between driving over a landmine or safely completing a mission, accuracy is paramount. WaveSense will now bring this lifesaving technology, with the same military-grade safety and precision, to civilian self-driving vehicles. Several pilots are underway with leading industry players.