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.
As we move into this future, NXP has now introduced a new generation of its radar semiconductor platform that is scalable and can be adapted to the task profile required. The combination of NXP’s new S32R45 processors and TEF82xx transceivers designed specifically for radar applications delivers the angular resolution, processing power and range required for future tasks.
The platform is designed to meet cost-effective, compact NCAP Corner Radar requirements in production vehicles, while providing scalability for long range front radar and more demanding applications such as simultaneous operation of blind spot detection, lane change assistant or altimeter. These assistants require longer ranges and significantly better angular resolution to reliably detect and separately detect multiple objects around the vehicle. The combination of the new S32R294 radar processors and TEF82xx transceivers offers the necessary efficiency and flexibility to individually optimize the implementation for these applications, promises Feulner.
The devices of the new sensor generation are manufactured in 16nm FinFet and 40nm RFCMOS technologies. With the 16nm FinFet technology, NXP is the first in this market, says Feulner. RFCMOS technology has been introduced at NXP for years and combines the advantages of low-cost CMOS manufacturing with the ability to process very high frequencies.
In order to unlock the performance of the new chip generation, NXP also supplies corresponding algorithms that can be used, for example, by the integrated hardware accelerators. All this is contained in a new, uniform development environment together with the Software Developers Kit (SDK), which the chip manufacturer provides. The new components are currently being sampled by customers and will be available in mass production in the course of 2021.