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NXP develops tiny radar sensors for self-driving cars

Posted: 05 Jan 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:radar chip  CMOS  sensors  ADAS  self-driving car 

NXP Semiconductors unveiled what it calls "the world's smallest single-chip 77GHz radar transceiver" at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week.

Measured at 7.5mm x 7.5mm NXP's tiny radar chip, based on CMOS process technology, will open the door for car OEMs and Tier Ones to develop systems consisting of a 'cocoon' of radar sensors for self-driving cars, according to Lars Reger, chief technology officer of NXP Automotive. Such a system can provide a high-resolution, 360-degree view of the environment not only in self-driving but also Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) cars in the volume market, according to NXP.

NXP's working prototypes "have been already in the hands of our lead customers," said Reger, in addition to "our innovation partner in Mountain View, Calif.," referring to Google. Google' self-driving car engineers—yes, Google has radar technology specialists—have taken a closer look and are currently field-testing them, Reger added.

Every carmaker today is racing to add sensor technology, in hopes of increasing the number of "eyes" on the road. Radar, one of the key sensors, has the advantage of being able to see through darkness or fog. Radar can also measure the speed and distance of objects.

Today's high-end vehicles already use a two- or three-chip single SiGe radar system housed in bulky hardware.

Cocoon Radar

Cocoon Radar reference design (Source: NXP)

The automotive industry is said to be eager for a string of small radar chips they can place anywhere in the car for such applications as emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and automated-parking. The power consumption of NXP's new tiny radar receiver chip is 40 per cent lower than conventional radar ICs, according to NXP.

Our customers "can put them in four corners of their car, or use a concoction of 10 to 20 tiny radar chips all running on the same clock," explained Reger. It's up to car OEMs and Tier Ones to design a radar system, according to their own specs, and decide if they want to use SiGe-based high power radars (developed by Freescale) or CMOS-based small radar chips, he added. With the NXP-Freescale merger now complete, "we can recommend to our customers the best fitting solutions in an unbiased way," Reger said.

NXP now offers a reference design for "cocoon radar," fitted on a small PCB (35mm x 35mm) consisting of a radar front-end RFCMOS, radar signal processing dual MCU and others running at 4W.

Asked about plans for CMOS integration of the front-end sensor receiver chip and base band processor, Reger said that silicon discussions have begun for next-generation "optimised" sensors. "We will combine Freescale's base band MCUs with our RFCMOS." Reger, however, declined to comment on timing or architecture.

- Junko Yoshida
  EE Times U.S.

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