Hella makes the jump to 77GHz radar

June 10, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automotive supplier Hella KGaA (Lippstadt, Germany) has announced a new 77GHz radar sensor that for the company represents a second pillar besides the proven 24GHz technology. Inside the sensor, we find NXP’s RF CMOS radar chip that opens up the perspective to new application options for automotive radar.

Hella’s new CompactRadar sensor has about the size of a matchbox, significantly smaller than today’s 77 GHz radar sensors. The beauty of this sensor is its versatility: Depending on the antenna it is connected to, the  device can be used for distances of about 120 meters down to 5 cm, explained NXP CTO Lars Reger in an interview with EE Times Europe. Thus, the same sensor can be used for midrange driver assistance applications like adaptive cruise control as well as for parking assistance applications where it competes against the cheaper ultrasound technology. However, the radar technology also has benefits over ultrasound, Reger argued: In contrast to ultrasound, radar signals can penetrate a paint layer. Ultrasound sensors cannot be painted over and therefore OEMs have to stock these sensors in all colors of the respective car. In addition, radar sensors offer a larger field of view, better range and higher resolution in comparison to ultrasound sensors.

With target acquisition distances as low as 5 cm, the radar can even be used for interior applications such as gesture control, Hella indicates in a press release.

Hella’s plan is to equip vehicles with multiple sensors (up to 8) to enable a 360° surround coverage – a precondition for next-generation Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and eventually autonomous driving.

The sensor will be officially introduced at the Automobil Elektronik Forum in Ludwigsburg next week. According to Hella, the device will be available in about two years.

Meanwhile, NXP already explains how the next-but-one generation of radar sensors could look like. One idea is equipping the radar sensors with Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. This would help do reduce cost, weight and wiring complexity – always big issues in the automotive industry. Another idea is cranking the frequency even higher than the currently mastered 77 to 81 GHz. “We could go to free frequency bands above 100 GHz”, Reger said. “Then we could further