MADISON, Wis. — Now that regional New Car Assessment Programs (NCAP) are demanding such features as adaptive cruise control (ACC) and emergency brake assist (AEB) for their five-star safety ratings, NXP Semiconductors is urging the automotive industry to get cracking with radar systems.
To accelerate radar integration in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), NXP rolled out Tuesday (Oct. 2) a radar solution combining its S32R processors, RF transceiver and antenna design on a new reference platform. Developed in partnership with Colorado Engineering, the platform meets “the stringent functional, performance, and safety requirements of the industry,” claimed NXP.
Integrated sensors in a vehicle (Source: NXP Semiconductors)
The new system was designed to demystify the intricate “art” of radar that typically requires big automotive OEMs to fine-tune antenna and analog designs. NXP hopes that its “out-of-the-box” automotive radar system can serve Chinese car OEMs who still need several years to catch up with automotive incumbents in the rest of the world.
In a recent phone interview with EE Times, Kamal Khouri, vice president and general manager for ADAS at NXP told us, “Radar has become the sensor of choice” to enable ACC and AEB. “Cameras can’t measure velocity, while radars can,” he explained. “By bouncing off signals, radars can also see around the corner. On the other hand, lidars that use no moving parts are still very expensive.”
However, it is well known that traditional radar lacks resolution and can’t distinguish nearby objects. Radars are also notorious for sounding false alarms and they consistently fail to process information fast enough to be helpful on the highway.
Khouri made clear that NXP does not believe radars will replace cameras. “The combination of cameras and imaging radars offers redundancy, thus making vehicles safer,” Khouri said.
Inside new radar solution
So, what does NXP’s new radar solution entail?
The reference design, dubbed RDK-S32R274, combines NXP’s S32R27 processor, TEF810x CMOS transceiver, FS8410 power management IC and a radar software development kit. NXP has added expansion and antenna modules that can be optimized to create a customized development platform for specific customer applications.
At the heart of the radar solution sits a scalable family of Power Architecture-based processors — S32R27 and S32R37 — which Khouri described as “the first chips dedicated to processing radar algorithms.”
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NXP's S32R block diagram (Source: NXP)
According to Roger Keen, ADAS radar segment manager for automotive microprocessors, NXP’s radar processing IP runs on NXP processors, in addition to auto-grade software for ACC and AEB. Board and antenna design modules designed for the company’s radar solutions are “hardened as automotive qualified systems.”
With auto-grade radar SDK offered by NXP, developers who used to “hand tune” their own radar processing IP to specific hardware can now make function calls to the NXP’s radar system, Keen explained.
The S32R27-based solution is designed for extended applications such as ACC and AEB. S32R37, with less processing power than S32R27, is code-compatible and highly optimized for operations like blind spot detection.
The S32R27 version is priced at $14-$17 (1,000-unit distribution pricing). The S32R37-based solution costs $10-$12.