Jae Yoong Cho
Industry: Autonomous Vehicles, Navigation, Gyroscopes
Problem: An inertial measurement unit (IMU) is a device that calculates position and orientation from linear acceleration and rotational rate. It is one of the most critical components for an autonomous vehicle. However, existing low-cost ($1,000s) IMUs have poor accuracy, and they prevent autonomous vehicles from operating in a number of conditions. For instance, under heavy snow, image sensors cannot accurately recognize features around the road, and wheel encoders lose their accuracy, because wheels slip. GPS signals cannot be received inside a tunnel and can become corrupted inside an urban canyon. In these conditions, autonomous vehicles need to navigate solely with an IMU. However, with existing low-cost IMUs, autonomous vehicles cannot navigate accurately for more than 5 seconds. To address this problem, a low-cost IMU with much higher accuracy is strongly desired.
Solution: Enertia Microsystems is developing a new, ultra-high-precision Micro Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) gyroscope called the birdbath resonator gyroscope (BRG). A gyroscope is a sensor for measuring rotation rate and angular orientation. Gyroscope dominates the accuracy of an IMU. The BRG can extend the IMU-only navigation duration for autonomous vehicles up to 1000 seconds. The key component of the BRG is a symmetric, ultra-high-quality-factor mechanical resonator, called the micro birdbath resonator. The BRG was invented in a DARPA research project funded to the University of Michigan.
Market Opportunity: The autonomous vehicles car market will appear in 2020, and the market size is expected to reach $40M in 2035 (source: IHS). Other potential applications for the BRG include the navigation and survey systems for drones and unmanned underwater vehicles. The size of the drone market is estimated to be $3.5 billion in 2015 with a growth rate of 24% (source: ABI Research). The size of the underwater vehicle market is estimated to be $2 billion in 2015 with a growth rate of 25% (source: Markets and Markets).
Competitive Advantage: Enertia Microsystems has strong IP and extensive know-how in MEMS gyroscopes. We plan to license patents on the key technologies for the BRG from the University of Michigan. We have more than 40 combined years of experience in MEMS.
Key Risks: Success of prototyping development process, granting of pending patents, competition with large industrial companies.