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3D ULTRASONIC SENSORS FOR AUTOMOTIVE – DEMOCRATIZING 3D VISION THROUGH SOUND

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TOPOSENS (3D ULTRASONIC SENSORS FOR AUTOMOTIVE – DEMOCRATIZING 3D VISION THROUGH SOUND)

Reporting period: 2021-06-01 to 2022-10-31

Toposens is the first company to commercialize 3D ultrasonic sensors for autonomous applications. The Munich-based company offers a patented sensor technology, enabling 3D close-distance environment monitoring for self-driving vehicles and robotic applications. The innovative technology is allowing the highest degrees of autonomy and increases safety.
Unlike existing sensor technologies that can be negatively impacted by light conditions, reflections, and weather, Toposens sensors follow the principles of a bat’s echolocation, which can see tiny objects by emitting ultrasonic signals and receiving their reflections. Our 3D close-distance vision technology allows a three-dimensional data output thanks to the hardware setup of Toposens sensors which includes multiple microphones and one transducer.
Combined with a patented algorithm the data gets converted into a 3D point cloud (X, Y and Z coordinates in space) and thus allows the detection of all relevant obstacles in the close-range area. Current ultrasonic sensors generate only 1D depth data, no position and are therefore very limited for autonomous technologies. Allowing the highest degrees of autonomy (level 4 or level 5 of autonomous driving), Toposens technology will become an important puzzle piece in the future of mobility.
Hardware Development
The hardware development for the sensor included the selection of components such as the microcontroller and microphones, as well as testing of various options to determine the best fit for the sensor. Also a CAN communication interface was implemented for reliable data transmission. The microcontroller chosen met the requirements and had better availability than comparable options. Testing of microphones and transducers was conducted using an in-house designed and built test chamber, with performance tests following industry procedures. The selected components were those that provided the best performance in terms of angular accuracy, detection range, and signal quality.
The housing design must also consider the IP67 requirements and provide mechanical stability for the components.

Software Development
The firmware is responsible for controlling the hardware components of the sensor, such as the microcontroller, microphones, and transducer. It is also responsible for implementing the signal processing algorithms that are used to analyze the sensor data and output information about the presence and location of objects in the sensor's surroundings.
The software stack further includes the software layers that are responsible for the communication between the sensor and the vehicle, as well as the post-processing of the sensor data. The software stack was developed using the Robot Operating System (ROS) framework, which is a popular choice for robotics applications. The ROS framework allows for easy integration with other software and hardware components, as well as providing a range of tools and libraries that can be used to develop advanced robotics applications.

Autonomous Functions including 3D Collision Avoidance and Solution Validation
The 3D ultrasonic sensors developed by Toposens have been designed to provide reliable and accurate 3D detection capabilities, which can significantly increase the safety of mobile robots. The sensors are equipped with post-processing software that allows them to analyze the 3D data they generate and provide advanced 3D collision avoidance for AGVs (automated guided vehicle). The main objectives of the development were to assess the accuracy, noise immunity, and reliability of the sensor technology in detecting objects in the direction of travel. The 3D ultrasonic sensor system, which included the Toposens Processing Unit (TPU), was tested using various test objects and environmental influences, such as noise and changing industrial surroundings, to analyze its behavior in the specific use case.
Another autonomous feature built was the use of 3D ultrasonic sensors for advanced vehicle underbody control in autonomous applications to detect living or non-living objects for increased safety. The focus was on understanding the capabilities and limitations of the sensors, as well as the number of sensors needed, the accuracy of the system, and the reliability of detection (false positives and false negatives).

System Scalability
The Toposens 3D ultrasonic sensor technology has successfully reached the end of its development phase, having achieved the optimal combination of features and capabilities. The system is currently suitable for use in a range of mobile robotics applications, as well as low volume autonomous vehicles such as shuttles. In addition, it has demonstrated functionality that is suitable for use in the development of high-volume passenger vehicle products.

Quality Management System
All processes are reviewed to ensure an ISO 9001 compliance approach and to ensure a high-quality product in the end. Our company is going to be audited to achieve the official ISO 9001 certification. All quality management processes are focused on our product quality. To structure the development, we set up a quality management roadmap. Moreover, first blocks of an ISO 26262 development structure are already implemented.

IPR-Management
Throughout the project Toposens planned, finetuned and executed its IPR strategy and has successfully filed various new patents and a new trademark, while continuing to execute the existing patents.

Exploitation and Dissemination
In addition to the mobile robotics market, Toposens continued to see significant potential for the use of its 3D ultrasonic sensor in the automotive industry from shuttles to passenger vehicles. The sensor's ability to accurately detect objects in the surrounding environment is particularly useful for autonomous driving systems and other advanced driver assistance systems, like the safety detection below the vehicle.
To showcase the results of its H2020 project and promote the new 3D ultrasonic sensor, Toposens has participated in various trade shows and events, as well as releasing press releases and promoting the sensor on social media. Through these efforts, the company has gained exposure and awareness for its innovative technology, which is poised to have a significant impact on a variety of industries.
Toposens is thrilled about the results of the full project. These test results validated the new sensor and shows that the pilot customer requirements are met. The development team can achieved further improvements by both, appropriate embedded software and post-processing features. This new sensor platform enables autonomous applications to maneuver safely, even in the most difficult environments. Toposens has already implemented the first parts of an industry-specific quality management system, which takes the professional way of working to the next level. Despite the challenging market situation in the aftermath of the pandemic, Toposens conducted great pilot projects as reference for later development projects and managed to build a high-performance 3D sensor that increased the autonomous vehicle safety to the highest possible levels, since the Toposens technology is able to detect objects no other sensor in the market can detect.