Greenerwave, Plastic Omnium Look to Turn Car Body Panels Into "Intelligent Surfaces"

Offering better performance than rival 4D radar systems while proving more robust than LIDAR, this upcoming sensor tech could be a hit.

Gareth Halfacree
a month agoSensors / Automotive

Greenerwave and Plastic Omnium, specialists in "deep tech" electromagnetic wave control and sustainable autonomous mobility respectively, have announced a partnership to launch a new 4D imaging radar to compete with LIDAR — by, the companies claim, turning a vehicle's body panels into "intelligent surfaces."

"With the technology developed by Greenerwave," explains Mathieu Bancelin, advanced technology director at Plastic Omnium, "we are entering the era of the functionalization of external body panels to offer automotive manufacturers high-performance radars at a competitive cost for driving aid functions."

Between them, the two companies are making big claims: a 4D imaging system for autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS), which can beat light-based LIDAR in performance and cost while offering lower energy usage and higher resolution than rival 4D radar systems.

The secret, the companies claim, is a signal processing approach borrowed from medical and optical imaging techniques — but twisted in order to apply it to millimeter-wave (mmWave) radar. Using these, Greenerwave's system can create dense 3D point clouds — while Plastic Omnium is able to integrate the system into body panels, replacing multiple LIDAR or radar sensors with a "intelligent surfaces."

The radar system works through the use of electromagnetic mirrors designed to turn plastic body panels — usefully transparent to mmWave signals — into tunable antennas. In testing, the technology has proven capable of offering a sub-0.5° resolution over a field of vision above 180° — and yet withstanding panel deformation and even individual antenna breakage and operating in weather conditions which LIDAR can't handle.

The only catch: While the companies will be showing off the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, it won't be ready to launch until 2026.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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