New imec radar chip improves vision of self-driving cars

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The Leuven (Belgium) based research centre imec is working with German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies AG on a breakthrough technology. Their CMOS-based 79 GHz radar chip helps brings self-driving cars one step closer to reality.

Good vision. That’s what cars need more than ever as they are increasingly required to self-assess traffic situations, and will be taking to the road totally driverless in the future. Who supplies those radar “eyes”?

Raising road safety

The Leuven-based imec is a world-leading research centre in nano- and microelectronics. The cooperation with the German Infineon Technologies has produced a radar sensor chip which works on a very high frequency.

Compared to the mainstream 24 GHz band, the 77 GHz and 79 GHz bands enable a finer range, and therefore a better vision when used in vehicles,” says Wim Van Thillo, program director Perceptive Systems for the Internet of Things at imec.

“With these advantages, we aim to realise radar prototypes with integrated multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antennas that not only detect large objects, but also pedestrians and bikers. Since even fog, snow and darkness cease to be a problem for radar systems based on 79 GHz radio waves, they thus contribute to our road safety.”

New radar system by 2017

Imec and Infineon Technologies are planning to reveal a complete 79 GHz radar system demonstrator for the beginning of 2017. They are expecting functional CMOS sensor chips samples in the third quarter of 2016.

This radar technology will complement already existing systems. In its press release, imec refers to the current situation.

Typically, there are up to three radar systems in today’s vehicles equipped with driver assistance functions. In the future, self-driving cars will use up to ten radar systems and ten more sensor systems using cameras or lidar technologie.

Close collaboration between researchers and manufacturers

Ralf Bornefeld, vice president & general manager Sense & Control at Infineon is responsible for the cooperation with the Leuven specialists.

“In the future, we will manufacture radar sensor chips as a single-chip solution in a classic CMOS process, especially for applications liked automated parking. Together, we will continue to set the industry standards in radar technology and quality.”

For more details on the 79 GHz band range, read the article in imec magazine.