By on July 20, 2020


Joe Hinrichs, formerly Ford’s president of automotive (and a leading candidate for CEO in the event that the company’s board grew tired of Jim Hackett), has found a new gig after his ouster from the automaker he worked at for 19 years.

On Monday, Massachusetts-based WaveSense announced Hinrichs as its newest board member, joining a former General Motors chief financial officer, Chuck Stevens III, and a Continental executive in the advisory body.

The startup tasks itself with defeating the limitations that currently hold back truly autonomous driving. Mainly, the fact that bad weather and snow can obscure the roadway a self-driving vehicle is attempting to navigate, rendering cameras and Lidar myopic.

WaveSense’s solution? Ground penetrating radar.

“A radar signal is sent 10 feet into the ground and the reflection creates a unique “fingerprint“ of every inch of roadway. Together, these fingerprints form a map that allows precise positioning in any condition, including snow, heavy rain, fog, or on roads with poor lane markings – all of which cause other positioning technologies to degrade or fail,” the company said.

The technology, developed at the MIT Lincoln laboratory, was used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan starting in 2013. WaveSense hopes its tech, backed by a board of bigwigs, earns its a spot in the auto industry’s supplier Rolodex.

“WaveSense is delivering the most precise and reliable vehicle positioning system at a cost that allows broad adoption. Knowing where you are is fundamental to enabling the next generation safety and performance features the automotive industry is looking for,” Hinrichs said in a statement. “WaveSense’s Ground Penetrating Radar provides always available, precise positioning that cameras, traditional radar and Lidar simply have not achieved. I am excited to contribute to WaveSense’s rapid and broad adoption so that new and improved safety and performance features become available to drivers around the world.”

Ford unexpectedly tossed Hinrichs in early February, with most industry observers pointing to the botched launch of the 2020 Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator as the motivating force. The former exec (along with Jim Farley) was one of two individuals expected to one day occupy the CEO chair.

At Wave Sense, Hinrichs will mingle with a former rival Stevens, who retired from GM in 2019 after 40 years, and Kurt Lehmann, formerly Continental’s chief technology officer. Hinrich’s appointment is effective immediately.

[Image: Ford]

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3 Comments on “Joe’s Got a Brand New Bag: Ousted Ford Exec Turns Up at Self-driving Tech Firm...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Knowing where you are is fundamental to enabling the next generation safety and performance features the automotive industry is looking for”

    That’s only half of the equation. The other half is knowing what’s around you. It doesn’t help if I know my position on the earth within inches, only to strike a firetruck parked in the lane ahead.

    • 0 avatar

      Better visual sensing is needed along with new AI technology. The visual sensing is closer. The new generation of AI is still in its infancy. My favorite of the sensing technologies is the ability to assemble shadows and reflections into see-around-the-corner capability. Give it another decade or so and we should see some good things.

  • avatar

    So much technology and expense to relieve the lazy humans from the exhausting task of DRIVING!
    How about drivers drive, or if that’s too difficult, take a bus or maybe a horse? Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to sell us a mandibular implant to help us chew our food.

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