Radar-Based High-Definition Maps

Automotive News has a cool article about different advances in automotive radar for autonomous vehicles. The article makes the point that radar has been a little bit like the forgotten sensor:

“Perhaps radar is even underappreciated. Venture capital has flowed into lidar and camera-based solutions for automated vehicles; radar has been viewed as a commodity.”

That seems right to me.

The article highlights three companies working on different approaches to more advanced radar for self-driving cars. The work from Bosch to create radar-based high-definition maps seems particularly interesting.

“By coupling these two inputs [radar and GPS], Bosch’s system can take that real-time data and compare it to its base map, match patterns between the two, and determine its location with centimeter-level accuracy.”

Bosch calls this approach, “radar road signature” and posits that it can provide centimeter-level accuracy while using half as much data as a camera-based map.

Bosch is highlighting their work with TomTom to build radar-based HD maps. They divide these maps into three layers:

  • Localization: calculating where the car is in the world
  • Planning: deciding which actions are available to the car
  • Dynamic: predicting what other actors in the environment will do

This is exciting work because high-definition (HD) maps are usually the domain of lidar. Lidar point clouds are used to generate maps against which a vehicle can compare later sensor readings.

Some work has gone into attempts to build such maps with camera data. Visual SLAM is one example of this. By comparison, relatively little work has gone into building HD maps from radar data. That makes Bosch’s endeavor novel and exciting.

Bosch is positioning this as a fleet-based mapping system, with map data generated by ordinary consumer cars, not necessarily specialized mapping vehicles. It’s hard to know how realistic that really is, but it would play to Bosch’s strength of scale.

“One million vehicles will keep the high-resolution map up to date.”

As the world’s largest automotive supplier, Bosch has a unique ability to pump a success into the automotive market.

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