Tesla has been developing an important expertise in radar technology over the last year. Earlier this year, Tesla worked with its radar supplier, Bosch, to get upgraded drivers and access to raw input from the radar antenna on its Model S and X vehicles in order to build its own processing of the input.
The effort culminated in the release of Tesla’s version 8.0 software update in September that enabled improvements to Tesla’s Autopilot features. The automaker is still looking to improve on its new system and recently hire a new engineering lead from a leading competitor in autonomous driving systems.
Last month, the head of the advanced radar systems group at Delphi Automotive, an important supplier of electronic systems for the auto industry, left to join Tesla in order to lead the automaker’s radar system engineering. Before leaving for Tesla, Duc Vu spent the last 2 years leading the development of Delphi’s next-generation radar systems.
Prior to his leading role at Delphi, Vu was developing radar systems for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) of the the United States Navy while working on his PhD. In 2012, he obtained his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida with his thesis on ‘Advanced Techniques for Synthetic Aperture Radar Image Reconstruction‘ [PDF].
Tesla CEO Elon Musk prefers radar antennas over LiDAR sensors since they can see through rain, fog, snow, and dust. He is also hoping to achieve similar coarse point cloud maps, something easier to achieve with LiDAR , with inputs from the radar through “temporal smoothing”.
Vu’s expertise will certainly help Tesla work toward its goals with radar systems. He lists some of his expertises on his LinkedIn profile:
“My expertise is in radar waveforms design, clutter estimation modeling and suppression, advanced algorithm for receiver-side processing, MIMO radar architecture, and general detection and estimation via spectral methods. My general interest is in developing CONOPS for radar systems, and detection and estimation in complex environments.”
But Vu’s departure from Delphi is also an important blow to tier one supplier’s own self-driving effort.
The company has been trying to position itself as a leader in the autonomous driving space and last year, it completed a coast-to-coast drive in the US in the latest version of its system:
They managed to use the system during 99% of the trip.
Delphi is also an important radar antenna supplier to the auto industry and one of Bosch’s, Tesla’s radar supplier, main competitor in the space.