There are only two sensor technologies in automotive electronics that are not represented in Infineon’s product spectrum, says Ralf Bornefeld, Vice President and General Manager Sense & Control at the Munich-based chipmaker, half jesting. These technologies are CMOS image sensors and inertial sensors. Otherwise, the company claims to have the broadest portfolio of automotive sensors, including pressure, magnetic field, and radar. And yes, another sensor type cannot (yet?) be found in Infineon’s catalogue: Lidar. “Lidar is greatly on the rise”, Bornefeld said, avoiding however a clear statement as to the company’s related plans.
All-CMOS radar ICs however are currently in the planning. However, these devices are not exactly the silver bullet for all kinds of radar applications in the car, Bornefeld said. “In the discussion about all-CMOS radar, it is necessary to throw some paradigms overboard”, he said. The first one: CMOS is always cheaper than the currently prevailing SiGe technology. “This is only true if the volume is high enough”, the Infineon manager explains. Yes, there are applications that “presumably” will yield sufficient volumes, but not all. And, second, a highly integrated CMOS radar chip is possible, but it does not necessarily make sense. Such a high integration makes only sense in cases when the application requires little flexibility. The higher the degree of standardization, the higher are the chances to beat SiGe with all-CMOS implementations. In other words: “The more flexibility is required by the application, the higher is the chance to remain competitive with SiGe in the medium term up to ten years”.
In any case, the radar technology is far from hitting its technological limits, Bornefeld said. “Radar is generating ever-higher resolution images. We already see approaches to combine it with downstream data processing based on deep learning schemes.” He said.
The market for radar sensors continues to grow strongly. There are two strong market drivers: The first is autonomous braking, a feature