How to increase your safety odds with automotive radar

Checking in at the rental car counter is always a bit of a gamble.  Are you going to “roll a 7” and end up with the base model that doesn't have power seats and smells slightly funky (you KNOW what I mean…)l? Or are you going to get lucky and find a brand new, top of the line, “I didn’t have to pay extra for this” car?

On my most recent business trip to Dallas, I was thrilled to find myself on the lucky sides of the dice. Not only did I drive off in a brand new SUV, but as I pulled on to Interstate 635 and flipped on my turn signal – I was greeted with a pleasant warning beep to let me know that there was a car passing me in my blind spot and it was NOT a good time to change lanes.

This experience got me thinking about the amazing evolution of automotive safety in the two decades since airbags became a standard safety feature. “Passive safety,” defined by seat belts, airbags and crash detection systems, has evolved into “active safety” – ABS, electronic stability control, adaptive suspension and yaw/roll control. The latest phase is Automotive Driver Assistance System (ADAS) safety, which includes features such as adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition or even lane departure warnings. These systems are beginning to merge with communication systems in the vehicle, making the vehicle more autonomous and more intelligent.

Depending on the specific ADAS safety feature, a variety of technical approaches can be used such as cameras, video, infrared, or even radar to help read and capture the wide variety of real life road conditions and scenarios. What is the one thing that all of these technology approaches have in common? They need to be reliable and robust! The critical nature of driving a car calls for safety features that not only perform as intended, but als0 enhance the capabilities of the car and driver.

Some of the specific challenges related to automotive radar based safety features involve a clear demand for the ability to image faster moving scenes with better resolution than ever before.  To combat those challenges, TI has developed the AFE5401-Q1, a baseband receiver analog front end (AFE) designed for this next generation of automotive radar applications.

The AFE5401-Q1 is composed of four separate channels (LNA+Equalizer+PGA+AAF+ADC). These separate channels are simultaneously monitored by the device to determine the exact direction of the incoming radar signal. This allows the automotive radar system to make smart decisions about where an object is located, if it is moving and how soon a response needs to occur.  

Another feature is an equalizer to attenuate closer signal returns while emphasizing further ones. This allows the brains of the ADAS system to make smart decisions about where an object is located, if it’s moving, and how soon it needs to respond. And with 2x faster sampling speed than current competing solutions, the AFE5401-Q1 enables faster FMCW radar burst, enabling position and speed discrimination of even the fastest moving scenes.

Additionally TI is offering comprehensive solution in ADAS ranging from FPDLink, Hercules Safety MCU (TMS570), Power management ICs and TDAx ADAS SoCs (brains of ADAS system). Recently, TI announced theTDA2x processor powered by Embedded Vision Engine (EVE), which offers unparalleled performance at low power footprint to run up to eight algorithms to make smart decisions within reasonable power budget.

So when will these ADAS safety features including radar make it to a car you can actually afford and not just rent? It’s a safe bet that it will be sooner than you think! With technology advancing quickly, solutions like the AFE5401-Q1 are making automotive radar technology lower power, smaller, and more affordable than ever – making the adoption of this technology a standard, not only in luxury cars, but in mid-range car models in the very near future.