A Radar to Watch You in Your Car

Vayyar says there are at least four good reasons to monitor passengers with radar instead of cameras

Used to be, when we said the walls had ears, it meant there were microphones hidden in them. Now, when we say the walls have eyes, will it mean they have radar?

Maybe so, at least in your car. Vayyar Imaging, a firm based in Tel Aviv, says it has a radar chip that can form a three-dimensional view of what’s going on inside a car as well as outside of it. Right now, though, it’s concentrating on the inside, because there’s a regulatory push to having in-cabin observation in place in the early 2020s, and Vayyar thinks it has a head start.

Everyone else seems to be banking on cameras, including infrared cameras, to do this job. You can buy such a system right now: the Cadillac CT6 Super Cruise. That car can drive itself for extended periods, but it uses a camera to scrutinize the driver for signs of distraction or fatigue to make sure that, if a problem comes up that the system can’t solve, it can safely hand control back to the human.

Using radar inside the car is novel—even weird.

The first question is how Vayyar does it. It starts by putting most things on a chip that sits on a board inside a thin package that could be hidden in the roof or dashboard. There are 48 radars on the chip, 40 of which are hooked to antennas on a board. (The others are held in reserve, for self-monitoring purposes.)

The 40 beams are projected simultaneously throughout the car’s interior, and their reflections are also received simultaneously. This format is known as mimo, for multiple beams in and multiple beams out.

“We generate thousands of beams by combination,” says Vayyar CEO Raviv Melamed, speaking from Tel Aviv, which is where he and his colleagues co-founded the company. “We transmit beams number 1, 2, and 3, and so forth, in parallel, and we receive them on each of the 40 receivers, and the combination gives us virtual points—many, many signals. The points look like a voxel—a volumetric cell, the kind you’d get from lidar. We analyze them all in parallel, so it’s very fast.” [READ MORE]