Technology Stocks : Driverless autos, trucks, taxis etc.

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Radar Versus LiDAR
Racing to drive down sensor costs for the automotive market.
October 23rd, 2017 - By: Mark LaPedus

Demand is picking up for vision, radar and LiDAR sensors that enable assisted and autonomous driving capabilities in cars, but carmakers are now pushing for some new and demanding requirements from suppliers.

The automotive market always has been tough on suppliers. OEMs want smaller, faster and cheaper devices at the same or improved safety levels for both advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving technology. Generally, ADAS involves various safety features in a car, such as automatic emergency braking, lane detection and rear object warning.

Radar, an object-detection technology used for blind-spot detection and other safety features in vehicles, is a case in point. “Over time, the radar modules have shrunk considerably. The thermal requirements are getting harder,” said Thomas Wilson, product line manager at NXP. “So, the performance requirements are going up. The size is going down. And the cost requirements are getting more and more aggressive.”

The radar modules used in cars today are clunky systems that incorporate several chips based on different processes. But seeking to reduce the size and cost, Infineon, NXP, Renesas and TI are moving towards integrated radar chipsets that combine various components on the same device.

Radar chipsets are targeted for some applications, but they point to an emerging trend. Instead of using different processes for various chips, IC makers are integrating radar devices using standard CMOS processes at 45nm and 28nm. Other process options include 22nm bulk and FD-SOI.

Another technology, LiDAR, is moving from bulky systems toward smaller solid-state units with more integrated components in an effort to bring down the high costs for the technology. LiDAR (light imaging, detection, and ranging) uses pulsed laser light to measure distances.

There are other dynamics at play. For example, the industry is developing next-generation radar with higher resolutions, a move aimed to displace LiDAR. But LiDAR technology is not standing still.

As it turns out, there is no one technology that covers all ADAS/autonomous requirements. Today, some vehicles incorporate advanced vision systems and radar. Over time, they may also include LiDAR, meaning the various technologies will co-exist.

Each technology has its pros and cons. “LiDAR is a more expensive system compared to radar, but it is more accurate in identifying an object. LiDAR has its limitations in adverse weather conditions, such as snow, rain and fog,” said Jim Feldhan, president of Semico Research. “While radar doesn’t seem to be as affected by weather conditions, it can’t determine the size and shape of objects as accurately as LiDAR.”

To help OEMs get ahead of the curve, Semiconductor Engineering has taken a look at trends in advanced vision, radar and LiDAR and ways that vendors are attempting to bring down the costs.

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So how will this all play out in the future? Cameras, LiDAR and radar will likely co-exist. “We don’t think you will see an either or situation,” he said. “There is room for radar continuing to supplement and augment information that LiDAR provides. And you will continue to see cameras as the third sensor modality.”

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