We catch up with Ashish Lachhwani, Founding Director at Steradian Semiconductor, following their big win at the AutoSens Awards. Steradian won the Gold in the Most Exciting Start-up category, as voted on by the AutoSens community.
As a start-up you have an aggressive growth strategy; what does this mean for your vertically integrated approach?
Ashish Lachhwani, Founding Director at Steradian Semiconductor
Steradian is a product based vertically integrated company focusing on 4D Imaging Radars. The product encompasses a state-of-the-art Transceiver with FMCW modulation capability in TSMC 28nm CMOS process and a proprietary radar signal processing software stack to generate readily integrable point cloud and tracked objects for sensor fusion.
Steradian has developed the World’s most compact 28nm CMOS Milli-meter wave Imaging Radar chips (SVR4410 and SVR4414) to power their 4D Sensors. The Milli-meter wave antenna and radar processing software from Steradian, when combined with this radar IC enables a complete high performance imaging radar solution. Applications for our products are in Automotive and Industrial sensing, while the radar semiconductor can also be used for Drones and Surveillance.
The Imaging Radar module from Steradian is an all-integrated unit which is used for applications like AV/ADAS, Traffic monitoring and enforcement to help save lives on the road. Precision parking or smart docking in ports and airports that hitherto required manual guidance can now be automated using our Imaging Radar, thereby improving parking efficiency at a lower cost. Consumer applications like Gesture recognition bring the power of Radar to consumer products as well.
Steradian has filed 15 patents (9 granted) covering various aspects of this product. The company has grown steadily and significantly over the last few years. With its strong team of more than 30 Full time (+35 Contract) Engineers, Steradian is bracing to support customers for volume production now with all IP development in-house. We are marching into 2022 with a strong tie-up with Tier1 automotive suppliers, OEMs and system integrators.
FMCW radar has been pivotal in ADAS development, but how do you see radar technology developing in terms of sensor fusion?
Reliability and Safety are the heart of automotive world. While keeping the reliability of conventional radars intact and adding the new dimensions of high-resolution point cloud, Steradian has brought the Radar sensors back to the focus and delivered on “Enhancing vision through Imaging Radar” for AV/ADAS pursuit.
With its high fidelity and near-zero false alarm rates, the Imaging Radar solution is suitable for sensor fusion suites required for higher levels of autonomy. The high-density point cloud provides easy handle for full-stack players to enhance the sensor fusion outputs with an all-weather reliable sensor. The strategic partners ecosystem with established companies in Automotive sector helps Steradian to design and manufacture to the required safety standard.
To bring the technology to a commercially acceptable point, Steradian innovated on the silicon design. Multiple patents on the Radar Front End architecture helped achieve a solution that is scalable across various levels of autonomy. The same platform can be used to design a high-resolution point cloud Imaging Radar for higher levels of autonomy or an economical smart sensor application. The Radar Front End is really processor agnostic. Steradian’s Radar signal processing software stack is conducive to such requirements. This has been a long-standing issue for the full-stack and OEMs – the ability to change the hardware vs software partition and use the available compute in a flexible manner across the Edge and Central processing. Steradian is supporting a 14.4Gbps high speed data link per IC to interface with the available processors.
Through its in-house developed Perception SW engine, Steradian has essentially migrated from 4D to a 5D Imaging Radar. The ability to distinguish objects in real-time is being deployed in Industrial Radars.
You claim that your radar imaging solution has the best performance in its class, what makes it so unique?
Being a vertically integrated Company, Steradian is focussed on improving the product technology as well as the end application. This helps the customer to keep a view of the entire solution. Steradian Imaging Radar solution has better performance (budget and noise) and lower power consumption compared to the competition. The enhancements in FMCW techniques through fast-chirping, high sampling data converters, high speed data communications channels (14.4Gbps per chip) have brought unprecedented specification changes to conventional Radar. Steradian’s 1-degree angular resolution is validated by customers as the USP of our solution. The improvements in angular and range resolution enable a much denser point cloud output from the sensor. This enables the Radar sensor to migrate from a warning-only sensor to a 4D Imaging Radar which provides information about the size/shape of the objects around the sensor. The proprietary signal processing enables a real-time reconstruction of the surrounding, paving a path for higher levels of autonomy. The precise size, shape of objects as reconstructed through the Imaging radar helps alleviate on-field false alarm challenges such as – a soda can on-road causing the vehicle to stop, whilst not compromising on vulnerable road user (VRU) detection and putting safety at the centre of the solution. The high elevation resolution allows detection of bridges, vehicle-under-the-bridge scenario and manholes that is not possible with a conventional radar. The high dynamic range of the Radar Front-end and the software stack allows detection of VRU by-the-side of heavy metallic objects (like trucks, fences, and grills) and urban driving scenarios. The commonly faced issues with conventional Radars like metal poles on the road swamping the entire scene are issues of the past now with high dynamic range Steradian Imaging Radar.
The Perception SW developed at Steradian is a unique innovation adding another dimension to the Full-stack. The ability to distinguish objects with just using Imaging Radar to a high degree of accuracy is a testament to the technological advancement at Steradian.
Tell us about your Radar Signal processing technology – is it scalable and what is the long-term aim?
Our radar signal processing software stack is architected to make use of the available compute platform in the best possible manner, in terms of frames-per-second (fps) and power consumption. The conventional techniques of MIMO Radars (including 4D FFT) require several TFLOPS and are quite impractical with commercially viable off the shelf processors for achieving 1 degree and better angular resolution.
Steradian Radar Signal processing provides an elegant, scalable solution to this problem with proprietary techniques. Our patented techniques enable the use of available GPU or DSP platforms (off-the-shelf) for Imaging Radar application while providing >10K points in a single frame. This enables true elevation, size/shape of the objects in a real-time with low false alarm rates. The algorithms are tightly knit with the on-PCB antenna arrangement (microstrip) and together deliver the best trade-off for hardware and software at a viable commercial point.
This architecture also opens newer possibilities in the data processing engine following the point cloud generation. For some applications, the system demands the point cloud to be clustered, tracked, bifurcate static and dynamic objects and even classify the objects. All these requirements are handled much better by the open-processor approach that we have adopted. Customers are much more free to adopt available processors and run the SW stack for various approaches to sensor fusion. Also, this approach can give impetus to the transition of automotive radar sensors to newer high data rates architectures.
The Perception SW with ability to perform high accuracy of distinguishing classes of objects also runs on the same processors!
Reliability and safety are key factors in sensor development, how does Steradian approach these when it comes to your technology?
Reliability and Safety are at the heart of automotive. Right at the stage of product definition, we need to follow the protocols for ensuring the final products reach the ultimate goals of functional safety as desired by Tier1’s and OEM’s. Steradian works closely with its customers and partners to adhere to the many years of knowledge gathered on safety. A lot of procedures for safety are defined by customers and Steradian ensures compliance and routine reviews to highlight this.
Tell us about your fast-growing team and their skills – how do you go about finding the right talent?
Steradian is taking on customers globally. Our customers span from Bay area to Europe to Japan. The business arm of Steradian is in most of these geographies. The Engineering group is primarily located in the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore. The team has found a higher guiding path in the vision at Steradian. Steadily growing from 5 co-founders couple of years back, today we are strong team of 30 full time and 35 consultant Engineers. We are a bunch of Antenna, Analog/RF/Mixed Signal/Digital ASIC – designers, Signal Processing, Embedded SW, HW and AI/ML – experts. The team is very focussed on innovation and execution. Having worked for several years in Semiconductor and Embedded SW for RF wireless Industry the team at Steradian boasts over 125 patents. While innovating in the core areas of perception SW and Radar Semiconductor, Steradian has filed 15 US patents out of which 9 are granted.
What does it mean to you to receive this ‘Most Exciting Start-up’ Award from AutoSens?
The Automotive Industry is witnessing a tectonic shift and the paradigm of ‘what is innovative’ is shifting every day. In this situation, an award of ‘Most Exciting Start-up’ by the world’s leading community for ADAS and autonomous vehicle technology developers representing the engineers and scientists across the globe is an endorsement of the progress we are making. We look forward to contributing more to the community as we enter 2022!