Automotive radar has become a mainstream sensor for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The technology competition is severe to deliver the best sensor performance, cost and size tradeoff. In its latest report Radar Technologies for Automotive 2018, Yole Développement highlights the diverse semiconductor technology serving this market. There’s GaAs, the historical one, SiGe Bi-CMOS, the mainstream one, and RF CMOS, the newcomer.
RF CMOS is not a new technology – it’s the technology of choice for signal processing – but making it work efficiently for very high frequency applications such as millimeter wave (mmWave) radar requires strong design skills and expertise. This is exactly where big players like Texas Instruments (TI) can add value. We believe RF CMOS technology will ramp up from 2020, gaining traction over SiGe Bi-CMOS technology.
Source: Radar Technologies for Automotive 2018, Yole Développement
Yole’s RF experts Claire Troadec and Cedric Malaquin thus interviewed Sneha Narnakaje, Automotive Business Unit Manager at Texas Instruments. For their discussion about RF CMOS’ technology status for mmWave automotive radar, read on.
Claire Troadec (CT): Can you please introduce Texas Instruments’ radar, imaging and ultrasonic products for automotive advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to us?
Sneha Narnakaje (SN): Texas Instruments empowers automotive developers to more quickly and easily design ADAS for a smarter and safer driving experience. TI’s expertise in analog and embedded processing, combined with automotive systems knowledge, enables developers to leverage its robust and optimized ADAS solutions, including ADAS system-on-chip (SoC) processors, mmWave radar, cameras and ultrasound, which all accelerate ADAS system designs. Beyond individual semiconductor components, TI provides innovative reference designs that help enable developers to create ADAS solutions that can span multiple vehicle platforms and meet a variety of system needs. TI’s ADAS solutions cover every performance level to enable simple systems like accurate ultrasonic park assist, to complex functionality like sensor fusion and autonomous driving. TI has more than 30 years of supporting functional safety developers with products, solutions and documentation that can help make it easier for automotive designs to meet regulatory and functional safety requirements. As a pioneer in the automotive market, TI was an early leader in anti-lock braking and airbag ICs for passive safety applications. Today’s SafeTI™ components help enable customers to achieve automotive safety certification faster. TI’s systems-based approach and scalable application processors help developers overcome both ADAS board- and system-level design challenges and provide efficient solutions with faster design cycles.
Cédric Malaquin (CM): What is the status of Texas Instruments’ radar products?
SN: We announced our mmWave sensing technology portfolio in May 2017 and have been sampling pre-production samples since then.
CT: What is Texas Instruments’ perception of the radar penetration rate for ADAS?
SN: Current deployment of automotive radar sensors addresses basic ADAS functions. However, radar is quickly becoming mainstream, as it is one of the essential sensing technologies required to achieve 5-star European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) rating. In addition, as manufacturers are preparing themselves for level 3 [where drivers are needed but can shift some safety-critical functions to an automated system] and beyond of automated driving, the number of radar sensors per car will likely increase to 8-10.
YD: Do you see other market opportunities for radar?
SN: The use case for radar sensors in ADAS markets is very well understood. Basic ADAS functions such as blind spot detection and adaptive cruise control have been addressed by 24 GHz corner radar and 77 GHz front radar sensors, though existing solutions lack the small size and lower cost that integration brings to enable them to expand outside of these applications. However, outside of ADAS, we see a lot of potential in body and chassis, as well as in-cabin applications. Radar sensors can be used around, under and inside the car for applications such as obstacle avoidance for doors and trunks, occupant detection, and driver vital signs monitoring. These last two in particular are included in the NCAP 2025 roadmap, so we expect that these two features will become part of the mainstream vehicle. This means using mmWave radar to not only detect children and pets left behind, but to warn the driver or place an emergency call. In the case of driver vital signs monitoring, a radar sensor in the car can work with those outside the car to monitor the current state of the driver – both to detect simple drowsiness or even dangerous health conditions like heart attack or stroke – and navigate off the road in the event the driver is not able to adequately control the vehicle.
Beyond automotive, we see a lot of other applications, from intelligent transportation systems and motion detection to people counting and industrial vehicles.
Imagine being able to dynamically control traffic lights based on how many cars are waiting. By using mmWave radar, we eliminate the need for expensive road repair to replace inductive loop sensing and remove the optical-based problems with weather – such as rain, snow, fog and other vision-impairing conditions – and light. People counting and motion detection systems leveraging radar can provide the same security as LIDAR without the potential invasion of privacy that accompanies optical-based solutions. For example, radar in bathrooms could detect if anyone is hiding there without privacy concerns before closing the building. It could also be installed in offices to precisely light and heat/cool rooms based on how many people are there – without the need to throw a pencil at the motion detector if you’re working late.
As with all technical revolutions, a key factor is cost. mmWave radar sensors make it easy and cost-effective to install radar solutions in a number of places where other solutions are impractical.
CM: Can you explain why Texas Instruments chose RF CMOS technology very early in its roadmap for millimeter wave products?
SN: TI has a long history with CMOS technology. With mmWave technology in RF CMOS, TI went through a lot of innovation to deliver the unique technology and portfolio with high standards of quality and reliability. With mixed signal technology, it is important to get the right combination of RF performance, power, size, package, reliability and cost in our journey towards a production-ready device and choosing proven RF CMOS technology helps speed that process.
CT: What are the technological advantages of your RF CMOS solution compared to your competition? Is there any drawback?
SN: We’re providing solutions to enable customers to reduce system size and system power at the sensor level. CMOS technology has a few advantages for that. First, it is low power, which is very important for automotive applications. Second, it helps to integrate not just analog but digital capabilities onto the same chip, which helps reduce overall solution size. This in turn increases the flexibility in the types of places sensors can be installed.
CM: What is the consequence of switching to RF CMOS technology from a system point of view?
SN: When we look at the vehicle architecture, customers are talking about smart sensors, which is the intelligence of the processing that needs to go into the edge sensors. Because of the integration of RF, analog and the digital signal processing capability on our CMOS device, customers are able to build and offer cost-optimized system architectures.
CT: Could you describe product performance in the 77 and 79 GHz bands?
SN: 77 GHz is used for mid- to long-range applications and 79 GHz is used for ultra-short- to short-range applications. The 77 GHz product will enable customers to reach ranges as long as 250m and beyond. The 79 GHz solution has a very high range resolution, as low as 5 cm. In ultra- and short range applications, this helps to independently identify closely placed objects, such as a pedestrian and a car very close to each other or a car in front of a truck, to clearly see and separate both of those objects.
CM: Is it possible to use this technology for level 4 and 5, fully autonomous, cars? Is this solution also appropriate for robotic cars?
SN: At a component level, we see that radar sensing is a requirement for level 3 and beyond of automated driving, which requires longer range, higher accuracy and higher resolution. Our portfolio scales from a high performance front- end device to a true single-chip radar sensor. The portfolio offers scalable performance across range, accuracy and resolution to address level 3 and beyond of automated driving.
CT: What feedback have you had from Tier 1 manufacturers and the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that they supply regarding this technology?
SN: While we can’t share customer specifics, we can share that this technology has won several industry awards, including the EE Times ACE Awards, three Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Honoree awards, the Design News Golden Mousetrap awards and the Electronic Products Product of the Year awards.
CM: What are the next development steps for high resolution imaging radar?
SN: One of the devices in our portfolio, the AWR1243 high-performance front-end, has built-in circuitry and capabilities to be able to cascade multiple devices to deliver higher resolution in azimuth and vertical direction required for high-resolution imaging radars. We demonstrated this concept at CES.
CT: Do you think high-resolution radar could reach LIDAR performance in the future? When could this be achieved?
SN: The concept we demonstrated at CES with four AWR1243 radar front-end devices cascaded resulted in less than 1-degree angular resolution, which is LIDAR-like performance, at the right price point.
CM: We know that TI has a vision processor solution based on camera technology. How do you envisage the integration of radar into this solution? Will it exploit fusion processing? Will you partner with other companies?
SN: Level 3 and beyond of automated driving will requiring sensor fusion and the fusion of radar data with vision data. We are working with our third party ecosystem to enable our customers to get started quickly with such solutions.
CT: What could be the target price of the end solution?
SN: 1000-unit pricing ranges are from $19.99-$98.60, depending on which device in the mmWave family is ordered.
Sneha Narnakaje is a business manager for automotive radar in the Radar and Analytics Processors group for Texas Instruments. She is responsible for the automotive radar business, driving marketing strategy and product management for the mmWave sensor products in the automotive market. Sneha joined TI in 2004 and has worked in various roles, including product management, marketing and business development and software development across communication infrastructure, wireless infrastructure, DSL/cable, multimedia and wireless technology areas. She has over 18 years of embedded processing experience in key market segments of automotive, telecom and industrial. Sneha graduated from Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland with an MBA and has a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Mangalore University, India.
As a Technology & Market Analyst, specialized in RF devices & technologies at Yole Développement (Yole), Cédric Malaquin is involved in the development of technology & market reports as well as the production of custom consulting projects.
Prior his mission at Yole, Cédric first served Soitec as a process integration engineer during 9 years, then as an electrical characterization engineer during 6 years. He deeply contributed to FDSOI and RFSOI products characterization. He has also authored or co-authored three patents and five international publications in the semiconductor field.
Cédric graduated from Polytech Lille in France with an engineering degree in microelectronics and material sciences.
Claire Troadec is leading the RF activity at Yole Développement. She has been a member of the MEMS manufacturing team from 2013. She graduated from INSA Rennes in France with an engineering degree in microelectronics and material sciences. She then joined NXP Semiconductors, and worked for 7 years as a CMOS process integration engineer at the IMEC R&D facility. During this time, she oversaw the isolation and performance boost of CMOS technology node devices from 90 nm down to 45 nm. She has authored or co-authored seven US patents and nine international publications in the semiconductor field and before joining Yole Développement managed her own distribution company.
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