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Open AccessArticle

Simulation of Pulse-Echo Radar for Vehicle Control and SLAM

by 1,2,*, 1,2 and 1,2
CoSys-Lab, Faculty of Applied Engineering, University of Antwerp, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium
Flanders Make Strategic Research Centre, 3920 Lommel, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sensors 2021, 21(2), 523;
Received: 17 December 2020 / Revised: 4 January 2021 / Accepted: 5 January 2021 / Published: 13 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Simulation Studies on Remote Sensing Scenarios)
Pulse-echo sensing is the driving principle behind biological echolocation as well as biologically-inspired sonar and radar sensors. In biological echolocation, a single emitter sends a self-generated pulse into the environment which reflects off objects. A fraction of these reflections are captured by two receivers as echoes, from which information about the objects, such as their position in 3D space, can be deduced by means of timing, intensity and spectral analysis. This is opposed to frequency-modulated continuous-wave radar, which analyses the shift in frequency of the returning signal to determine distance, and requires an array of antenna to obtain directional information. In this work, we present a novel simulator which can generate synthetic pulse-echo measurements for a simulated sensor in a virtual environment. The simulation is implemented by replicating the relevant physical processes underlying the pulse-echo sensing modality, while achieving high performance at update rates above 50 Hz. The system is built to perform design space exploration of sensor hardware and software, with the goals of rapid prototyping and preliminary safety testing in mind. We demonstrate the validity of the simulator by replicating real-world experiments from previous work. In the first case, a subsumption architecture vehicle controller is set to navigate an unknown environment using the virtual sensor. We see the same trajectory pattern emerge in the simulated environment rebuilt from the real experiment, as well as similar activation times for the high-priority behaviors (±1.9%), and low-priority behaviors (±0.2%). In a second experiment, the simulated signals are used as input to a biologically-inspired direct simultaneous mapping and localization (SLAM) algorithm. Using only path integration, 83% of the positional errors are larger than 10 m, while for the SLAM algorithm 95% of the errors are smaller than 3.2  m. Additionally, we perform design space exploration using the simulator. By creating a synthetic radiation pattern with increased spatiospectral variance, we are able to reduce the average localization error of the system by 11%. From these results, we conclude that the simulation is sufficiently accurate to be of use in developing vehicle controllers and SLAM algorithms for pulse-echo radar sensors. View Full-Text
Keywords: radar; simulation; vehicle control; SLAM; biologically-inspired radar; simulation; vehicle control; SLAM; biologically-inspired
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MDPI and ACS Style

Schouten, G.; Jansen, W.; Steckel, J. Simulation of Pulse-Echo Radar for Vehicle Control and SLAM. Sensors 2021, 21, 523.

AMA Style

Schouten G, Jansen W, Steckel J. Simulation of Pulse-Echo Radar for Vehicle Control and SLAM. Sensors. 2021; 21(2):523.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Schouten, Girmi; Jansen, Wouter; Steckel, Jan. 2021. "Simulation of Pulse-Echo Radar for Vehicle Control and SLAM" Sensors 21, no. 2: 523.

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