The advancements in radar technology, particularly the development of 4D radar, have revolutionised various fields, including automotive safety, aviation, and weather monitoring. At the core of these sophisticated systems lies significant innovations in digital signal processing (DSP) and antenna design, both of which have been a central focus of Provizio R&D for the past number of years. In this post, we’ll explore the current challenges faced by 4D radar systems, and how Provizio technology pushes the bounds of what’s possible in the space.
4D radar is an evolution from traditional radar systems, adding the dimension of elevation to the existing coordinates of range, azimuth, and velocity. This additional data dimension allows for more precise tracking and identification of objects in three-dimensional space and their speed.
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 that allow 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.
MIMSO® (Multiple Input Multiple Sparse Output) is a software defined active antenna technique, which embeds proprietary surface-mount technology (SMT) integrated circuits (ICs) into a novel planar antenna design. This allows us to lower the receive path noise floor and discriminate more of the radar beam by essentially recycling parts of the radar beams that have traditionally been 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. Ultimately, MIMSO allows us to extract more than 30x the resolution from each physical radar channel.
Our proprietary software modulation technique, SPTDMA™, is a new form of multiplexing that enables unparalleled 6K resolution out to over 600m in all weather conditions, with the added benefit of protecting against interference from other sensors.
In radar systems, there are different modulation schemes that can be used to transmit and receive signals from multiple targets. One such scheme is Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), where each transmitter transmits a signal on separate time slots. This allows the received signals from each transmitter to be easily separated with minimal computational overhead. However, using TDMA modulation comes at a cost of reduced maximum unambiguous velocity measurement, since the frequency at which measurements can be performed is limited by the time delay introduced by the allocation of time slots for each transmitter.
To address this issue, another modulation scheme called Doppler Division Multiple Access (DDMA) can be used. In this scheme, each transmitter transmits simultaneously (eliminating the time delay) and a series of algorithms are used to recover the velocity of a detected object by correctly matching each received signal to the transmitter that sent it. However, this approach is limited by challenges in accurately determining the velocity of targets and resolution limitations for objects that are closely spaced. Moreover, the addition of complex algorithms to match transmitter/receiver signals requires sophisticated signal processing that can lead to increased computational demand and pose challenges for real-time processing.
Provizio’s patented SPTDMA (Slow Phase Time Division Multiple Access) solution combines TDMA and DDMA techniques by splitting multiple transmitters into smaller sub-arrays, with each sub-array transmitting simultaneously on an allocated time slot. In this way, while there is a limitation on maximum unambiguous velocity compared to a pure DDMA system, we can increase the number transmit channels to improve angular accuracy and range, while keeping computational complexity low enough to enable real-time, on-the-edge processing.
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:
Provizio has invested significant resources in pushing the bounds of what’s possible with 4D radar hardware and software technology. With our patented MIMSO® and SPTDMA™ systems, Provizio offers finer resolution, faster processing speeds, and more accurate target detection and tracking, delivering compelling solutions to enable the transition to L3+ autonomy and the future of automotive safety.
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