Radar, the car’s virtual eye: Page 3 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.

Crucially, radar performs 4D sensing: with a single shot, it can measure the range, velocity, angle, and elevation of an object from which its millimeter wave pulse is reflected. A radar sensor also operates in conditions, such as rain, fog, and snow, which impair or disable the operation of LIDAR sensors and visual cameras.

Higher performance, greater integration

Automotive radar systems under development will, in time, make today’s radar technology appear blunt and limited in comparison. Today, a radar sensor mounted in the front bumper does an excellent job of measuring the distance to a single vehicle in front and its speed.

A full highway autopilot system, however, will need to be able to operate safely on the Autobahn in Germany, where a motorbike, for example—smaller, and so harder to detect than a passenger car—can approach on the outside lane at speeds higher than 180 km/h. To provide early and accurate detection of such a hazard, an autopilot’s radar system therefore needs to sense more precisely, faster, and at longer range.

Developing these capabilities while staying within the automotive industry’s tight constraints on size and cost calls for innovation in semiconductor technology, RF system operation, and signal processing. At Analog Devices, a new generation of radar components, including 76 GHz to 81 GHz monolithic microwave IC (MMIC) transmitters and receivers, is based on a new Drive360 28 nm CMOS technology platform. Marking a departure from the industry’s conventional use of SiGe semiconductor technology for radar, the Drive360 platform provides valuable advantages including:

  • High output power and low return noise for detection of objects at a longer range
  • Low phase noise and high intermediate frequency (IF) bandwidth, giving ultrahigh precision for the detection of small objects such as motorbikes and infant pedestrians, which before would have been hard for a radar sensor to see
  • High performance phase modulation, enabling the radar sensor to discriminate more effectively between multiple objects in a scene
  • Ultrafast pulse transmission, giving a faster response to fast moving objects such as a motorbike advancing at 180 km/h

The use of CMOS technology also supports a high level of integration of digital functions in radar devices, helping to reduce the cost and size of advanced radar systems. Core Analog Devices intellectual property in functions such as oversampled analog-to-digital converters and ultralow noise digital PLL clocks helps to increase the speed of operation, resolution, and stability of next-generation 77 GHz radar sensors.

A combination of advanced semiconductor technology, analog expertise, and system software capability will enable radar technology to extend the capabilities of ADAS deployed in the next generation of vehicles. And Analog Devices will remain at the heart of the development of radar now and into the next decade.

About the author

Donal McCarthy is the automotive radar product line director at ADI. Donal holds a B.E.E. from University College Cork, an M.B.A. from Boston College, and a marketing degree from the Irish Management Institute in Dublin. Donal held various roles including design engineer at MACOM, field sales engineer and marketing roles at Hittite, and marketing manager and director roles at Analog Devices. He can be reached at donal.mccarthy@analog.com.


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