New radar sensors poach in the lidar area

December 07, 2020 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
New radar sensors poach in the lidar area
Razor-sharp images and a detailed picture of the environment - for this purpose, manufacturers of ADAS systems used to require a set of lidar sensors. Until now - because NXP has now introduced a new generation of radar sensor chips and processors that possibly are taking the lidar out of the field.

Today, radar sensor technology is a fundamental component of ADAS systems and indispensable for automated driving from SAE levels 1 to 5. According to surveys by semiconductor company NXP, 60% of all new vehicles will be equipped with radar sensors within a few years. Depending on the degree of automation, market observers expect one to three radar sensors per car (for SAE Level 1 - driver assistance systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control); for the most widespread Level 2 (assistance systems for longitudinal and lateral guidance simultaneously), NXP expects five radar sensors per vehicle. Vehicles of the highest autonomy level 5 will require up to ten such sensors for their environmental perception. As the market penetration of driver assistance systems increases and the degree of automation rises, the number of radar sensors and processors required is expected to increase rapidly.

At the same time, the tasks of radar technology in cars are growing: While front and corner radars of today's systems only detect the area in front of and next to the vehicle, in the future they will scan the entire surroundings of the cars within a radius of 360 degrees. At the same time, the precision of the information provided by the radar will increase. High-resolution radar systems will produce a precise and detailed image of the surroundings; these systems will not only detect the position of objects in their environment, but also their size and contours. They detect the height of objects above the roadway and can thus distinguish a gantry or bridge from a truck standing at right angles. This makes radar conceivable as the primary technology for the car's sensor system, explains Matthias Feulner, who is responsible for marketing driver assistance systems at NXP.

These tasks require a significant further development of the technology - from the simple distance sensor to Imaging Radar, which delivers clear, high-resolution images. The milestones of this development are higher resolution radar signals through the use of higher frequency bands, MIMO technology to improve the scanning characteristics and signal quality, integrated hardware accelerators to cope with the immensely increasing data volumes and new semiconductor technologies as the basis for higher performance.

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