5D Perception® will eliminate crashes and enable mass autonomous driving
As a title, that’s a bold statement. After a lot of hard work it’s also a statement the Provizio team are now confident to stand over. As previously covered, we started Provizio to solve the driving problem. The driving problem being the reasons we crash, the reasons for unconscionable road fatalities or what the autonomous industry often refers to as “the hard bit”.
Autonomous vehicles were meant to end road crashes while simultaneously providing low cost mobility, but this goal depended on ubiquitous autonomy which we are no closer to today than 10 years and $100bn’s of investment ago. Autonomous Vehicle (AV) groups have made impressive strides in delivering driverless vehicles in geo-fenced regions. This has proved that, with a certain level of perception and training, you can deliver safety and autonomy on our roads. The cost associated with these platforms however means they remain a niche offering, cannot be mass deployed and so cannot impact the driving problem in the near term.
Provizio imagined an affordable perception system that could give every driver AV grade perception, 360° insights in all weather conditions and pave a true path to ubiquitous autonomy; that’s why we created 5D Perception®.
The perception problem
AV’s today use a combination of sensors and compute resources to perceive the world and take the human driver out of the loop. To allow an AV to see the world in 3D the industry has developed automotive LiDAR (the large siren type devices on the roof AV’s). Additionally Radar is deployed all around the vehicle because of its unique doppler properties that deliver the precise range and velocity of objects. Cameras deliver semantic information such as the ability to read road markings and traffic lights. Satellites provide location data and, when combined with high-definition mapping, allows the vehicle to navigate. These sensors are then fused on a central compute where a lot of heavy lifting software takes over, deploying processing algorithms, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver a passenger safely from A to B.
It’s a complex and expensive platform. LiDAR is largely what allows these vehicles to succeed but, because it is needed in 360° all-round the vehicle, it’s also one of its biggest scaling inhibitors. LiDAR, as a sensor, is expensive to build and hard to scale. LiDAR also needs to be seen to see and therefore impacts vehicle aesthetics. A number of companies are making inroads on building scalable solid-state LiDAR but most acknowledge and focus on forward facing perception. The balance of the system is also high cost as it requires external mounting and cleaning. LiDAR also struggles to perform in bad weather. Radar doesn’t have these cost or environmental issues which is why it is deployed in almost all vehicles on the road today but today’s Radars lack the resolution a LiDAR offers…until now.
Provizio’s 5D Perception® is backboned by proprietary super-resolution imaging Radar. Our 5D Perception® Radar sees the world in a LiDAR like 3D point cloud, and also delivers precise range and velocity of every point. This is what the industry calls 4D Radar. Uniquely, the entire Radar backend is built on a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) which allows us to deliver AI perception on-the-edge, this is what we call the 5th D in our 5D Perception® solution. This offers multiple advantages to our partners and ultimately all road users:
- Edge perception means edge decision making leading to driving interventions which are 30–100x quicker than today’s vehicles. Reduced intervention time = increased safety
- Allows low level fusion with other sensors such as Camera and LiDAR for unique insights and redundancy
- Run ML and AI Neural Nets on the edge to improve resolution and unlock local perception
- The entire sensor is software defined and updatable over the air so a Provizio 5D Perception® system learns and improves when deployed across millions of vehicles in trillions of scenarios
To deliver 5D Perception® and get the most from our high-resolution Radar, we developed a perception stack which is designed to leverage best-in-class sensors from partner suppliers of Camera and LiDAR sensors. This provides a clear path for OEM and AV partners to develop increasingly complex safety and autonomous solutions including:
- Level 3/4 Safe Augmented Driving: Crash resistant driving and limited autonomy can be realised with 360° high resolution Radar and Camera coverage coupled with best-in-class LiDAR acting as the primary forward facing perception sensor
- Level 4 Safe Autonomous Driving: By beefing up the forward-facing Radar range and resolution we now have two super-resolution forward facing perception sensors which will enable extended autonomy
- Level 5 Safe Autonomous Driving: Using fused super-resolution Radar and Camera sensing in full 360° to create a 1km cocoon of perception unlocks ubiquitous autonomy. In this configuration, LiDAR can be deployed as a redundant safety sensor on partner’s L5 platforms
500x more resolution, the MIMSO® way
Key to 5D Perception® is our advancements in Radar resolution and range. Digital Radars in vehicles today generally have a single Radar chip with 3 transmit channels and 4 receive channels which allows them to deliver a virtual antenna array of 12 elements. In Radar, the number of elements is like the pixel count for cameras and larger virtual apertures are preferred to improve resolution. Today’s Radar has a typical detection range from 100m to 150m. These sensors enable the basic and dependable adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Automatic Emergency Breaking (AEB) on vehicles. However, to enable safe autonomy Provizio brought learning from advanced aerospace applications and developed a dedicated cost-effective solution for the automotive vehicle market.
Previous to Provizio our team built products that NASA described as “awesome” and the world’s leading autonomous driving group described as “the gold standard” in automotive Radar. That experience led us to envision a completely different, patent protected (7 at the time of writing), approach to software defined imaging Radar.
We developed our proprietary MIMSO® Radar to have an equivalent number of virtual elements of 6032 (6K) which allows us to deliver LiDAR like point clouds but at 100x lower cost. This provides 500x more resolution than the Radar on vehicles today.
MIMSO® is a software defined active antenna technique, that allows us to extract more than 30x the resolution from each physical radar channel by embedding proprietary surface-mount technology (SMT) integrated circuits (ICs) into a novel planar antenna design. Our SMT ICs allow us to lower the receive path noise floor on our radar which discriminates more of the radar beam at a scalability and cost that has not been possible up to now. We are essentially recycling parts of the radar beams that have traditionally had to be filtered. On the transmit path, our SMT ICs allow us to carry out instantaneous beam switching which multiplies our transmit channels and further increases our resolution.
Our proprietary software modulation technique, SP-TDMA™, is a new form of multiplexing that brings it all together and delivers unparalleled 6K resolution out to over 600m, in all weather conditions and has the added benefit of protecting against interference from other sensors.
MIMSO® can be applied with any Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) Radar chips which allows us to licence to multiple partners and applications to deliver high resolution perception at a scale and lower cost than previously possible.
The incumbent Tier 1 Radar manufacturers are all developing 4D Radar to enable Level 3 driving. They have very little differentiation and are almost all building forward facing 4D Radars with 192 virtual antenna elements delivered using 4x COTS Radar chips. A big improvement but nowhere near AV requirements.
There are also other competitors working to develop super-resolution Radar. These solutions generally fall into one of two camps:
- Filled Array Radars: The brute force approach where you add more and more physical Radar channels until you get to 1° angular resolution. There are several companies that have announced they are building Radar with 2304 virtual elements by using 2304 physical Radar channels. This has 2 major disadvantages, cost (12x channels = 12x cost) and noise (Radar has a ‘cross-talk’ problem and proximity of Radar channels exacerbates it)
- Very Sparse MIMO Radars: The homeopathic approach where you dilute the number of Radar channels using a very sparse array (some across the entire vehicle!) or by using AI neural nets (NN) to infer more resolution. The problem here becomes trust, can automakers trust these sensors not to miss detections due to over dilution in the array
MIMSO® allows us to deliver three times more resolution and double the range of the most ambitious filled array approaches but at 12x lower cost.
Provizio delivers more than 30x the resolution and double the range of the incumbent Tier 1 sensors at a similar cost to the solutions they are employing today.
Provizio’s 5D Perception® Radar integration costs are much lower than other sensors. The MIMSO® Radar cover, the radome, is made from low-cost polycarbonate plastic i.e. the same as the car bumper so this can be seamlessly integrated in the vehicle body. They are super robust, and bugs, dust, weather and interference have negligible impact on performance. It is possible to have 5D Perception® Radar integration which does not impact the vehicle aesthetics and still delivers 600m Radar performance.
Teamwork to make the dreamwork
Since foundation we promised to partner, partner, partner to achieve our goal of zero road deaths and a true path to autonomy. The real key to this technology achieving mass adoption is the ability for it to be implemented at scale, with Provizio working alongside OEM’s and Tier 1 auto manufacturers to bring this technology to series production and on our roads by 2025.
Our core IP licence model has us working with some very exciting partners already and will be announcing additional partners throughout 2023, however we are always open to more. We are looking for:
- Automotive Tier 1s with series production opportunities who can licence MIMSO® to reduce production cost or ramp up resolution — this allows partners to supercharge their Radar solutions
- OEMs can licence our perception stack to fill out their driving experience — our goal is to provide the full perception stack to our customers to reduce their time to market
- We are partnering with leading LiDAR and Camera providers to allow them to deliver improved fused solutions while simultaneously lowering their overall unit costs — this provides a win win partnership to leverage individual partner key strengths
- We are partnering with central processing partners to fully realise our 5D Perception® goals — we recognize that 5D Perception® requires computation power and working with partners who can provide this decreases our customer adoption time
By leveraging our proprietary 5D Perception® technology, Provizio can supply class leading systems for a fraction of the current cost with low integration complexity. That has led to applications beyond traditional automotive. On any one-day, Provizio and our partners are testing on roads in Shannon and Palo Alto, in German cornfields, down Pittsburgh mines or scooting in Stockholm. We’d love to hear about your challenges and how 5D Perception® and MIMSO® could make an impact.
On my next post I’m going to talk about how we compound our advantage by leveraging AI, so please stay tuned…