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Radar crucial for autonomous driving, studies say

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt


According to a recent publication, the more technically oriented experts at IDTechEx regard radar technology as fundamental to safe driving. Moreover, this technology is crucial for reaching autonomy level 4, the experts judge. Even if it is still a long time until then: by 2042, all new cars will be equipped with radar sensors. Today, more than 50% of all new vehicles leave the factory with at least one radar.

IDTechEx predictions as to the use of radar sensors vs application

Numerous ADAS features, such as adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking, build on the function of front radars. The safety benefits are leading to a push from regulators and safety bodies, such as Euro NCAP, to get automatic emergency braking fitted to all new vehicles. The performance available in radar sensors in terms of angular and altitude resolution, exactness, and distance has been improving rapidly over the past decade. Products on offer from tier 1 suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, and Denso are an order of magnitude better than like for likes from 5-10 years ago.

Increasing radar performance could eventually threat lidar markets

For its study, IDTechEx has undertaken primary research interviewing 8 start-ups and 5 tier 1 and 2 automotive suppliers. Start-ups like Uhnder and Arbe are using the Si-CMOS based technologies to take the performance of radar to new, previously unseen heights. The angular resolution being achieved by these key players is getting into the 0.5°-1° regime, this is starting to encroach on the performance of lidar which typically achieves an angular resolution of 0.05°-0.5°. Thus, IDTEchEx believes that It is fair to say then that radar is now almost as good as lidar.

Another driver of radar sales will be the emergence of higher levels of autonomous vehicles. Level 3 vehicles have already hit the roads of Japan and are expected to enter the European market in 2022. Level 3 vehicles and beyond will have at least five radars per vehicle. Each of these radars will also need to have higher performance than ever before.

IDTechEx analysts are skeptical about Tesla’s strategy. The US electric carmaker believes it can do without radar sensors and relies exclusively on cameras. But while cameras can be used to enable these ADAS features, but most manufacturers opt for radar. One exception to the rule is Tesla, who have removed the radar from the Model 3 and Model Y, opting to use a camera-only solution instead. However, since the switch, the NHTSA has received multiple complaints about phantom braking while the systems are engaged. Phantom braking typically occurs when a radar detects a false positive and activates the emergency braking, something Tesla were trying to improve with Camera only.

One reason for Tesla dropping radar was the poor angular resolution that radar previously struggled with. This would make tasks such as separating a stationary vehicle underneath an overpass from the overpass itself nearly impossible. However, Tesla was using a radar from 2014 and the industry has moved on a long way since. For this reason, alongside the advantages discussed above, IDTechEx analysts do not believe Tesla will set the trend.

The market observers from IDTechEx agree with their colleagues from Strategy Analytics that the mainstream sees radar as the standard sensor equipment for future, more advanced ADAS and also for higher autonomy levels. This will have a significant impact on the numbers built and installed.

According to Strategy Analytics, the automotive radar market will grow from 63 million sensors worth $3 billion in 2020 to 274 million sensors worth $10 billion in 2028. The Autonomous Vehicle Service (AVS) Service report, “2022: The Year When Imaging Radar Enters Automotive”, predicts that imaging radar technology will continue to improve the performance of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and future autonomous driving systems.

Regulations and safety programmes have increased active safety requirements in new light vehicles and technologies, which not only increases the demand for sensors such as radar, but also increases the performance requirements for ADAS and related sensors. Imaging radar is expected to improve range resolution, Doppler resolution (speed) and altitude measurement and counteract interference with other radar signals as more and more vehicles are equipped with radar. Compared to existing radar, imaging radar will limit the occurrence of false readings, detect smaller objects, classify objects in the field of view and track more targets that are close together. This will not only improve performance, but also robustness in detecting and classifying different objects in the field of view, which in turn would increase system performance and consumer confidence in using ADAS.

“For this reason, imaging radar will be used throughout the automotive sector,” said Kevin Mak, Principal Analyst at Global Automotive Practice (GAP). Applications targeted for imaging radar include long-range distance warning, front corner alert, and emerging applications such as interior child presence detection and air shock detection for power liftgates.

IDTechEx Study “Automotive Radar 2022-2042”

Strategy Analytics Autonomous vehicles page

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