This Radar Startup Might Bring Self-Driving Cars to Market Sooner

Lunewave radar technology uses 3D-printed antennas to serve as the eyes of futuristic cars

31.05.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash
Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

With corporations such as BMW and the Chinese search technology conglomerate Baidu backing its ventures, Lunewave may help self-driving cars become a reality sooner rather than later.

Founded by brothers John and Hao Xin, Lunewave has created a specialised radar antenna that works as a sensor technology for self-driving vehicles. The company’s small, spherical radar is based on antennas used in fighter planes.

Hao, who has a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a specialisation in radars and antennas, spent years working in the defense industry before becoming Lunewave’s chief technology officer. The antenna is based off of research that Hao had conducted during his professorship at the University of Arizona.

Lunewave’s radar employs a greater range and field of view and can detect objects at greater distances than similar technology in the autonomous car market.

Until recently, Lunewave’s spherical antenna appeared to be too complex and costly to be manufactured at a low enough price and small enough size to be viable in cars, according to John. However, Hao, who specialised in radars and antennas while receiving his doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saw great potential in 3D printing.

“With a single 3D printer in the laboratory version we can produce 100 per day,” John told TechCrunch. “With an industrial printer you can print 1,000 per day.”

Hao convinced his brother John, who had worked in consulting and financial services at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Liberty Mutual, to found Lunewave and brings his ideas to market.

“He has a strong desire to commercialize his inventions,” John explained. “He wants to see it in everyday life.”

Several startups have entered the self-driving vehicle space, such as Light and companies that are developing LIDAR technologies like Quanergy and Leddartech. However, John believes that Lunewave’s Luneberg-based spherical antenna technology is more equipped to handle everyday driving conditions.

“LIDAR right now is at the end of the day because of its short wavelength,” he explained. “It does not function as well in poor weather conditions. Penetration of shorter wave lengths would be very difficult in poor weather conditions. Our radar technology has the ability to function across all weather conditions. Our hardware architecture of our Luneberg antenna has the best distance and the spherical nature of the device has the 360 detection capacity.”

Lunewave debuted its minimum viable product in 2017 and received $5 million in seed funding in two rounds in 2018, including a $1.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Safety is so important, we are seeing so much electronics going into vehicles,” John told Forbes. “Our focus to provide the right radar technology.”

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