Radar, the car’s virtual eye: Page 2 of 3

April 14, 2020 //By Donal McCarthy, ADI
Radar, the car’s virtual eye
Faster, higher resolution radar sensors have enabled the next generation of driver assistance technologies through improvements in vehicle safety and comfort in view.

But demand for ever higher levels of driver assistance, supported by the evolution of functions such as AEB and adaptive cruise control (ACC) in new ADAS implementations, is driving suppliers such as Analog Devices to develop new radar systems that offer higher precision, longer range, faster detection, and a more complete picture of the technology for two reasons: safety and comfort. Driver assistance systems such as AEB and ACC save lives and prevent accidents. Cars that feature these systems are rewarded with a higher official NCAP safety score, a mark that lifts the value and consumer appeal of new cars.

Both AEB and autonomous emergency steering systems continue to evolve in scope and complexity to serve the growing market for vehicles in the Level 2 or Level 3 (L2/L3) categories of driver assistance technology. New NCAP specifications, for example, call for better detection of pedestrians—vulnerable road users, in NCAP’s terminology. Developing AEB systems will operate reliably in more complex events than they are typically specified for by controlling the braking function at higher vehicle speeds in both urban and highway settings.

The market is also responding to signals from car buyers who want technology to reduce the effort involved in driving, particularly on the motorway. Premium cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class already offer limited highway autopilot capabilities, such as adaptive control of distance to the car in front and active steering assistance to keep the car in its lane. Automotive suppliers are continually implementing enhancements to these features so that they can be used in a wider range of more complex situations. This intensifies the need for radar sensors that offer superior performance.

The move toward higher L4 and L5 autonomy, which isolates the driver entirely from direct control of the vehicle, will require the development of sensing systems that have a 360° view around the car in real time. The control systems for these robotaxis will be incredibly complex and will need redundancy to eliminate the risk of false detection events, combining the inputs from separate sensor types such as radar, cameras, and LIDAR sensors.

Visual cameras can be used to assist the recognition of objects such as human beings, animals, and road signs. LIDAR technology creates rich point clouds, taking an instantaneous measurement of the vehicle’s distance from objects in the outside world and measuring the objects’ sizes to produce a high resolution 3D map of the outside world.

But a radar sensor’s unique capabilities, which are continually being extended, make it a crucial complement to these other sensor types in L4 and L5 systems. In L2 and L3 use cases, radar is actually the dominant sensor type because it offers the best combination of size, cost, and performance attributes.


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