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Hyundai invests in Metawave to improve radar for self-driving cars

Radar is one of three vital systems found in nearly every autonomous vehicle.

Seeing artists' renditions of AV tech is always interesting. The binary is a nice, if excessive touch.

Metawave might sound like a new music trend from the weirder corners of Reddit, but it's actually a company with new tech that Hyundai has its eye on.

Hyundai announced today that its venture-oriented Cradle business will invest in Metawave, a manufacturer of radar systems for autonomous vehicles. The automaker believes that Metawave's single-antenna radar reduces component complexity and improves object recognition.

Most radars use multiple antennas pointed in slightly different directions to transmit the radio waves that will eventually bounce back and be used to discern objects in and around the roadway. Metawave's product, the brutally named Warlord, uses a single antenna that is able to send beams in multiple directions.

Artificial intelligence on the system's embedded hardware then crunches all that data and sends it to the sensor fusion software that's used to blend the radar results with whatever the lidar and cameras pick up. The result is, ideally, a clear-enough picture of the road ahead for the car to navigate safely. Nearly every company testing AVs believes that all three parts -- cameras, lidar and radar -- are necessary to building the safest self-driving cars possible.

This isn't Hyundai's only move in the AV space. The company announced in January that it formed a strategic partnership with Aurora, a startup formed by ex-Googler Chris Urmson that is devoted to developing a platform for self-driving cars. Hyundai hopes its partnership will bear fruit by 2021.