Digital radar on a chip speeds autonomous vehicle adoption

The race for better ADAS starts with a new generation of digital sensors.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Uhnder radar-on-a-chip


A new radar-on-a-chip is on the way this year, capable of mass production and 4D digital imaging, heralding a new chapter for autonomous vehicles and next-gen advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Uhnder, a firm based in Austin, Texas, expects its digital radar to be automotive qualified in April 2022 and will debut on consumer production vehicles later this year.

Radar was late to the game in autonomous vehicles, early developers of which preferred lidar and visual camera sensing suites. But radar has distinct advantages. For one, it's a fantastic sensor for collision avoidance, particularly when used in concert with other sensing modalities. One disadvantage, however, has been its weight and form factor.

Uhnder believes it has solved this with its radar-on-a-chip solution, a compelling example of how ADAS and autonomous vehicle development is helping drive evolution in sensing. 

"Uhnder's 4D digital imaging radar-on-chip is a next-generation product that demonstrates new ways to advance automotive safety to save lives," said Douglas Campbell, president of the Automotive Safety Council. "Fatalities of vulnerable road users are now 20 percent of all roadway deaths in the US and even more in developing countries. ADAS technologies, such as pedestrian automatic emergency braking (P-AEB) that can reliably operate at night, can help reduce pedestrian fatalities per the latest report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Improved high-resolution perception sensors, such as Uhnder's radar-on-chip can potentially help reduce this rising fatality category."

Other firms have pursued radar-on-a-chip development, including Imec, one of the big players in commercial radar. In 2020 Imec presented a chip that processes radar signals using a recurrent spiking neural network. Its compact size made it easily deployable in drones and autonomous mobile robots, applications where size and weight are determinant factors for sensing systems.

Uhnder is taking square aim at the vehicle space and claims its technology delivers the industry's first digital radar solution with better accuracy and the power to sense moving or standing objects, large or small, at both short and long distances in all weather and lighting conditions, all while mitigating mutual interference between other radars, a big concern with analog radar. 

"Digital radar provides 16 times better resolution, 24 times more power on target, and 30 times better contrast than today's analog offerings, improving detection capabilities for better road safety for all users – drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians," said Manju Hegde, CEO and cofounder of Uhnder, Inc. "As more and more radars are fitted onto vehicles and other mobility solutions, interference among adjacent radar becomes problematic. Our radar, based on Digital Code Modulation, mitigates this problem."

The first tier 1 automotive customer for the 4D digital radar chip will be Magna, and Uhnder hopes to expand its customer base quickly.

"I am excited with the progress made over the years and ready for the entire ecosystem to experience what we already know to be true – that digital radar is fundamental for next-generation ADAS," said Swamy Kotagiri, CEO, Magna International.

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