Metawave’s Analog Beamsteering Radar for AVs Provides New Levels of Accuracy and Resolution

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As 5G rolls out, autonomous vehicle makers are looking for advanced radar systems.

5G mobile wireless in underway across the world. Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology stands poised and ready to benefit from the stronger broadband connection. 4G has proved too weak to provide a stable connection for AVs. But 5G is just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle for efficient and safe AVs. Among the many technologies that go into AVs, radar sensing is among the most critical. The main function of radar in the vehicles is providing precise velocity information in real time under the entire multitude of possible driving conditions.

Palo Alto-based Metawave provides automotive radar solutions designed to improve AV driving systems. The company demonstrated SPEKTRA, an automotive radar that clearly detects vehicles within 300 meters and pedestrians as far away as 200 meters from it. It does this with a notably high rate of angular resolution.

What Distinguishes Metawave Radar from Other Radar?

Metawave SPEKTRA uses patented technology. According to the company, SPEKTRA is “a calibrated phased array and front-end solution using one single conventional Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) radar transceiver chip,” which enables analog beamforming signals.

The difference between traditional radar and SPEKTRA is that the transceiver chips used for digital beamforming are only able to transmit signals in a wide field of view (FoV). This has a twofold effect: a smaller range of detection and less accuracy in detecting and differentiating characteristics between similar objects. This results in a low-range jumbling type of radar sensing, which is not optimal for the precision required by AV driving systems.

How Does Metawave’s SPEKTRA Work?

The integral technology powering SPEKTRA is Metawave’s MARCONI 77GHz phase controllers and mmWave integrated circuits and its proprietary calibration system. Together, these allow for controlling transmit and receive beams in steps of 0.1° in the range of ±22°. These narrow beams give vehicles using SPEKTRA a wide FoV while avoiding jumbling noise that prevents other systems from differentiating between distinct objects that are closely located. The ability for humans to detect and distinguish between objects like bikers, people, hydrants and dogs is very difficult to engineer in autonomous driving vehicles, especially for different weather conditions. According to Metawave, SPEKTRA can track cross-traffic, which is a known difficulty for traditional radar systems.

SPEKTRA’s front-end radar also uses a single transceiver radar chip with its own phase controllers, antenna array, and calibration control tables. This allows AVs using SPEKTRA to send and focus very narrow radar beams past the 300-meter mark while still accurately detecting and distinguishing objects at those ranges.

Bottom Line

Metawave’s SPEKTRA is designed to meet the demand from automakers with a vested interest in autonomous driving vehicles. The better a radar system can detect and differentiate both moving and stationary objects in all types of weather at higher ranges with greater accuracy, the more likely it will be purchased by car manufacturers for integration into their autonomous driving vehicles.

To this end, Metawave is working with a few companies in its SPEKTRA evaluation program. In the proof-of-concept program, car makers can test and evaluate SPEKTRA within their software, run algorithms, and extract data for analytical purposes.

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