At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, French automotive supplier Plastic Omnium and French deep-tech startup Greenwave are showing a revolutionary way of integrating radar sensors into the entire surface of the car’s bumpers to catch a high-resolution image of its surroundings.
The companies claim that far more information can be gathered by using six separate antennas incorporated into the bumper (or any body panel) instead of the ones in a classic combined radar module. It’s a more robust option in all weather conditions than today’s radars and cameras used for ADAS, and it can replace LiDAR, which is considered complex and expensive.
Simplifying radar systems
Greenwave is a spin-off from the technical Institut Langevin (CNRS, ESPCI) in Paris. It was founded with the ambitious goal of simplifying radar systems for better energy efficiency and affordability. Their technology uses simple, low-cost electronic components paired with a series of control and imaging algorithms innovations.
Today’s mass-market radars are limited in resolution, says Greenwave. This is the ability to distinguish a truck from a bike, for instance, due to limited aperture and resolution achievable at a reasonable cost. Especially when evolving to autonomous driving cars, this is crucial.
Six antennas in a plastic bumper
“Combining our beamforming technology with self-adaptive multi-illumination techniques, we turn any chipset into a high-resolution imaging radar at a competitive cost.” What it means, explained more down-to-earth, is that a standard radar chipset is used, connected to several antennas located on the vehicle’s bodywork. Like six in the entire surface of a plastic bumper.
With a conventional radar, they explain, the antennas are a few centimeters in size and located very close to the radar chipset. This results in a narrow aperture and, ultimately, low resolution. In the Greenwave solution, the antennas, transmitters, and receivers act as smart electromagnetic reflectors that can reflect the waves in the direction required.
The far larger antennas spread over the entire front of the car maximize the area receiving radar echoes and result in a more accurate picture and the possibility of identifying spotted objects. This 4D radar is multi-mode, able to see near and far simultaneously, and uses less than 15W for the six-antenna version.
Replacing three radars
And it integrates easily into plastic body parts, a matter Plastic Omnium excels in, as its name suggests. “The six-antenna 4D radar replaces three radars fitted to a front bumper (one front-end and two for the corners) and simplifies automakers’ electronic architecture,” Plastic Omnium claims. But it could be integrated into body parts all around the car.
Unlike lidar or cameras, its imaging capabilities are unaffected by outside conditions like weather or light, etc. And in case of an antenna gets damaged in an accident, the others keep on functioning while the broken one can be cost-effectively replaced.
The French automotive parts giant, a supplier to many car brands, says the technology is ready to be integrated into Level 3 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) by all carmakers interested.