The idea from the wireless HDMI team was compelling. But Reger knew that going from 60GHz to 80GHz would be a big jump. “I told them, ‘Guys, shouldn’t we do a test chip first?’”
On Christmas Eve, 2013, Reger got a phone call from the team. “It was exactly midnight,” he said. “I was informed of the chip’s tape out. I told my family how excited I was, but also said they probably wouldn’t understand…”
By the end of March, the team got the new chip, called Dolphin, back from the factory. Early April, 2014, they put together demo boards. By May, Dolphin, which was working “way better than expected,” according to Reger, was shown to the management board. “Everyone on the board joined the demo; by jumping out in front of the radar system, testing Doppler effect, checking out how it works. The whole demo turned into a toy for boys.”
Dolphins prototype modules have been designed into Tier Ones’ systems for several months now, for further testing.
Meanwhile, NXP is keeping Dolphin’s details close to the vest. Reger is neither talking of the exact geometry used for the 80GHz RF CMOS front-end chip nor the timing for launch of production chips. But he’s confident of the technology, and he sees big traction for it from automakers.
Today’s high-end vehicles typically feature a two- or three-chip single SiGe radar system, used in adaptive cruise control. But expectations are high among automakers for building cars with lots of high-resolution short range automotive radar for various applications.
Examples include collision warning systems (front and side), collision mitigation systems (front and side), vulnerable road user detection — cyclists and pedestrians for example, blind spot monitoring (rear), lane change assistance and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Radar or vision?
As to the future of ADAS, the auto industry isn’t choosing radar over vision or vice versa. Euro NCAP isn't mandating either radar or vision. Nor is it asking carmakers to have both.
A carmaker can rely on a more advanced radar system combined with a lighter vision system or, conversely, choose to go with a more advanced vision sensor with a lighter version of radar.
Vision technologies excel in tasks like detecting lane markings and other road information, such as reading traffic signs, reliably detecting pedestrians, and lighting functions such as controlling the high/low beams.
On the other hand, vision technologies can't handle some jobs, like seeing through snow and fog. Dirt renders vision sensors blind. Unlike radar, vision technology can't see very far. Long-range radar (LRR) can comfortably handle between 30 and 150 meters, and short-range radar (SRR) can detect objects within 30 meters.