Radar-based navigation gives infrastructure-free autonomy

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Vehicles will be able to operate with Level 4 autonomy following the development of a radar-based navigation and perception system that is not reliant on any external infrastructure.

Oxbotica is working toward infrastructure-free autonomy

Developed in a partnership between Oxbotica and Navtech, the so-called multi-module localisation system - consisting of radar, vision and laser - will allow end users to deploy autonomy in on-road and off-road locations in weather conditions where standard GPS or lidar cannot function.

According to an Oxbotica spokesperson, the radar-based navigation technology is being developed for deployment on vehicles ranging from airport cargo pods, mining trucks, on-road cars, and delivery shuttles. In use, the radar will have a range of approximately 300m.

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Set for launch this year, the solution from Oxbotica and Navtech can operate independently or be fused with other location services driven by GPS, lidar or laser vision.

“The incorporation of radar into Oxbotica’s localisation stack provides robustness to weather (e.g., snow and heavy rain), dust clouds, low/no light conditions, and regions with little or ambiguous geometry,” said the Oxbotica spokesperson. “The primary challenge with implementing a multi-modal localisation system - vision, laser and radar - is intelligently deciding which mode to rely on to provide the best pose estimate at a given moment in time.”

Oxbotica’s autonomous driving software has been deployed in cities, mines, airports, quarries and ports as part of its Universal Autonomy commitment, which aims to give autonomy to any vehicle in any industry without the need for external infrastructure. In Autumn 2019 the company was part of the DRIVEN consortium that demonstrated vehicle autonomy to the public in a week-long demonstration around a circuit in east London. Autonomous vehicles were simultaneously demonstrated in a quarry and a forest, using Oxbotica’s software.

In a statement, Phil Avery, CEO of Navtech, said: “Despite the potential of radar very few companies have successfully developed the necessary algorithms to use it properly. Oxbotica are world leaders in this area and together with our high-performance radar sensors we believe the resulting system will deliver a step-change in the performance available for all-weather all-environment localisation and perception. This is crucial for automation in more challenging environments such as mines and ports."