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By adding radio frequency interference-protected radar technology, aerospace engineer Euan Ward has developed an algorithm which could enhance driverless-car capability in built up areas.

Currently, within a particular radius, conventional sensors are used to avert collisions. As full autonomy requires accuracy over greater distances, sensors using radar technology from the aviation, marine and aerospace industries could measure these distances more accurately.

However, developing the safety of autonomous vehicles means that they must contend with an environment filled with significant radio frequency energy interference, and radar is still affected by this.

Euan developed new techniques to protect modern radar systems against interference as part of his PhD at university in Edinburgh. Working for the aerospace company Leonardo subsequently raised his awareness of the challenge faced by modern radar sensors because of interference.

This led to Euan developing technology that could allow low-cost radar systems, when operating in close proximity to one another, to maintain their performance.

Euan was one of six ‘Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851’ fellows asked to present his findings at a Presidential dinner at the Fishmongers Hall in London. Here, he was asked by Princess Anne how his radar technology might work on the roads of the busy Scottish Highlands with its often severe weather.

He said,

“Fortunately, I was able to confirm that unlike the other sensors on the driverless car, radars are able to maintain their operational performance in inclement weather, which is also true for the techniques developed in this PhD.’’

“This will mean that for somewhere like Scotland, where the weather is often unpredictable, the radar sensor will become even more critical for the safety of the driverless car, which brings into sharp focus the need for us to have techniques that can guarantee its reliability.’’