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Deep Dive: How Software Makes Car Radars and Cameras Smarter




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Why AI supercharges radar technology and cars don’t use LiDAR

LIDAR map images of compatible split highways (US 127 and W Colony Road) added as a result of Supercruise mileage expansion. Content of photo articles by GM

As you know, you need to run a story that explains the difference between lidar and radar, and how they work in the car. It sounds cool, but I don’t know anything about it.


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Lidar means light detection and ranging, and radar means radio detection and ranging.

Both radar and lidar do the same job of locating and resizing objects in the distance. Both also work by bouncing the signals in the path, counting the time it takes for those signals to return, and using that information to create an image. With lidar, the emitted signal is lighter. The radio wave on the radar.

Oculii is a radar software company that uses proprietary software and imaging technology to enable next-generation autonomous systems. We asked Steve Hong, CEO and co-founder of Oculii, to explain how LIDAR and radar are used in modern cars.

What is LiDAR? How is it used in automobiles? Future electric Volvo XC90s will come with LiDAR as standard advertising.

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Mercedes-Benz began installing the first radar in cars in the early 2000s, Hong explains.

Twenty years later, about 120 million radar units are being introduced to the road every year with new cars. When it comes to hardware, radar has been around for decades. There are billions of units on the road.

These inexpensive and popular radar units include hardware that enhances features such as forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, parking clearance system, and blind spot monitoring.

More advanced features require higher resolution and more physical radar hardware is required to install in the vehicle.

The number of antennas in a radar system determines its performance, and more expensive cars tend to have more antennas for higher resolution, Hong says.


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Summary? Some cars have more radar than others, depending on the features they are equipped with and their level of performance.

Radar Object Path Detection Photo: Arbe

How about LIDAR?

To answer the question of my fellow Knicks, it turned out that it wasn’t used at all in modern cars yet. Hong states that due to the cost and complexity of LIDAR components, it may contain many delicate moving parts that may not be able to withstand the unpleasant abuse of the pothole season in Sudbury.

Lidar is suitable for short distances and has a high resolution, Hong explains. However, it is not used in any car today. This system is fragile and not robust enough for use in automobiles. In addition, lidar is very expensive. It will take years before it becomes a cost-effective solution for cars.

If you wonder, lidar is commonly used to create high resolution 3D images and maps for forestry, mining, agriculture, surveying, and countless other applications. You just can’t find it in your new Honda.


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Radar is dominated by advances in software and artificial intelligence (AI) -powered radar technology as modern vehicles move toward an increasingly autonomous future. With advanced software, companies like Oculii can be much smarter with proven radar hardware that is simple and affordable.

Autobrake system concept photo: Getty

The radar itself is neither particularly sophisticated nor sophisticated, Hong says.

Traditional radar is ridiculous. Just send the same signal over and over again. However, the software can extend existing radar hardware to be virtually as good as lidar, but at no cost. With affordable and proven radar hardware, you can use software to achieve 100x or more resolution. It’s low cost and extreme resolution.


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High resolution radar enables more advanced safety features and higher performance of those systems.

AI can help you decide how to learn and adapt the best possible signals. For example, AI helps car radar overcome the challenge of seeing through bad weather and snow-covered bumpers, Hong says. Radar systems work naturally in bad weather and can also focus energy to interpret data through snow and ice-covered bumpers, but with the additional resolution achieved by AI, radar systems You will be able to perform better under various driving conditions.

Interestingly, this software-based performance improvement economically enhances the performance of affordable car and crossover radar systems, allowing automakers to offer more advanced safety systems to more shoppers at lower prices. Allows you to deploy with.


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Article content Parking photo using vehicle camera: Getty

There is another cheap and proven hardware that can be supercharged with AI and software. It’s a camera. Like radar, camera hardware has been used in automobiles for a long time and is now cheaper and more reliable.

Initially, radar was good at seeing distant objects. The higher the resolution from the camera, the more hardware is needed, Hong adds.

But by around 2010, as cameras got better, they became more dominant. When using cameras and radar together, their strengths are a very complementary technology that covers each other’s weaknesses.

Consider the 2022 Honda Civic, an affordable compact car. Its camera-based safety system now tracks nearby traffic in real time with an instrument cluster display, plotting cars, transport trucks, and motorcycles on the screen for distinction. The camera only looks at the image. The software behind it is the star of the show.

Therefore, the combination of enhanced radar and camera technology with powerful software and processing delivers performance that can meet the next level of autonomous driving development.

All of them use proven hardware that has existed for decades.

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