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Radar Technology: Key to Innovative Driver Assistance Systems That Avoid Car Accidents

Around 1.7 million people are injured and 40,000 killed on Europe's roads each year. The European Union aims to cut in half this large number by 2010, and innovative safety systems in cars can help make this happen. For instance, long- and medium-range radar can lower road accident risk despite visibility. Equipped with such a safety system, vehicles can identify other road users and obstacles ahead at distances of between 20 and 200 meters.

Costing well over Euros 1,000, radar systems today are still far too expensive for commercial applications. These systems also take up a large amount of space in a car's fender area measuring roughly 10 cm by 20 cm.

Infineon Technologies' new radar chip can change this by bringing long- and medium-range radar to the mid-range automobile market starting in mid-2010. With the radar chip RXN7740 of the RASIC (Radar System IC) product family, vendors will be able to shrink their radar systems to a quarter of the current size while reducing system costs for the radio frequency module by more than 20 percent.

"Radar technology is the key to innovative driver assistance systems that can help avoid car accidents," said Hans Adlkofer, who heads the sensors business at Infineon. "Our radar chip gives cars a sense of ‘vision' in all weather environments including fog, rain and snow. Thanks to this chip, long-range radar can become part of the standard equipment of medium-range cars by the middle of 2010."

US-market researcher Strategy Analytics predicts that the use of obstacle warning systems in cars could increase by more than 65 percent annually over five years from 2006. According to Strategy Analytics, in 2011 around 2.3 million of the 3 million cars equipped with obstacle warning systems will use radar technology. Also in 2014, 7 percent of all new cars can include this kind of system, primarily in Europe and in Japan.

A car's radar system sends out radio-frequency electromagnetic waves that are reflected back by vehicles or other objects ahead. Infineon's radar chip sends and receives these radio-frequency signals which then are processed in the background. The background data evaluation determines the distance of your car to other vehicles and their speed. As a result, if a collision is anticipated, headrests and seatbelts are in position to help alleviate the impact well in advance. A similar signal could also be sent to the braking or airbag systems.

Infineon's new radar chip RXN7440 of the RASIC product family brings to market the world's fastest radio frequency chips from the company's own R&D labs. A world-record speed was achieved four years ago in the lab and is brought to market today for commercial availability. The Infineon radar chip uses process technology based on silicon germanium (SiGe). This project was subsidized by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and the technology is designed specifically for automotive use. When compared to gallium arsenide (GaAs) components used today, SiGe technology makes it possible to build smaller, less costly radar sensors.

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