Measurement solutions from Rohde & Schwarz are helping to make safe autonomous driving possible


Eagle-eyed cars

What role do measurement solutions from Rohde & Schwarz play in the vision of automated driving?

Germany's favorite child is heading for autonomy. The idea stirs tech fans and car enthusiasts worldwide. Tailored solutions from Rohde & Schwarz are helping to make safe autonomous driving possible.

Connected, automated driving holds the promise of significantly higher road safety and convenience.
Connected, automated driving holds the promise of significantly higher road safety and convenience.

Tomorrow's mobility is stirring

Electromobility, connectivity and autonomous driving are megatrends in the sector. The automotive industry is reinventing itself from the bottom up. This goes so far that some companies are even questioning traditional vehicle engineering. Tesla competitor Zoox, for example, is developing the autonomous technology first and then the car around it. New metaphors for the vehicle of the future are already being coined: smartphone on wheels, laid-back tech dream, rolling manager and mobile chillout lounge are just a few examples.

Driverless cars are virtually unique in symbolizing the power of future technologies and digitalization to alter our everyday life. Connected, automated driving holds the promise of significantly higher road safety and convenience. However, trusting an autonomous vehicle is a big step for many people.

On the way to robot cars

Five levels are defined for autonomous driving: assisted, partly automated, highly automated, fully automated, autonomous. Partly automated systems (level 2) already exist, and highly automated systems (level 3) ready for series production are being developed.

The countdown has started: companies worldwide are investing billions in development and driving millions of test kilometers, both real and virtual. On the marketing speedway, companies are outdoing each other with forecasts of when the first robot cars will be commercially available: 2030, 2025, 2021?

"Autonomous driving will come," says Jürgen Meyer, Vice President Market Segment Automotive at Rohde & Schwarz, "but not as fast as some people think. A reliable legal framework is still missing. For example, some functions are allowed in the USA but not yet in Europe, and there are still many technical obstacles to be overcome."

Solutions for all trends in the automotive industry
As vehicles continue to integrate an increasing number of RF standards, radar and high-speed data buses, verifying that unwanted electronics emissions are within specified limits and that cars are immune to disturbances from external sources is becoming an ever-growing challenge for car manufacturers.

Solutions for all trends in the automotive industry

The complex interaction of different wireless technologies, such as radar, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, V2X communications and emergency calling, requires extensive tests. This makes Rohde & Schwarz an elementary enabler for accident-free autonomous driving. "Our portfolio is entirely tailored to the needs of the automotive industry. With test solutions for radar sensors, automotive Ethernet conformity, EMI precompliance and EMC conformance, we are already the market leader," says Meyer. "In short, we support everything that emits radio waves and communicates – and in the automotive sector, that's clearly growing."

Together with other sensors such as lidar, cameras and ultrasound, radars play a key role in current and future advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Automotive radars act as eyes for the vehicles. They are already being manufactured in the millions, and in top-end vehicles they are standard equipment. Radars are not bothered by fog or snow. By measuring attitude, separation, distance and velocity, they can foresee critical situations and avoid accidents.

Andreas von Loesecke

"The more intensively we use technologies for autonomous vehicles, the more important it is to correctly perceive the environment."

Andreas von Lösecke, Product Manager Imaging Products at Rohde & Schwarz

Seeing the world through sensors

The number of radar sensors per vehicle rises with each level of automation. Highly automated driving naturally sets high demands on the technology. The latest systems operate in the microwave region to determine the range, velocity and relative angle of detected objects and perceive even minute movements. The only thing better than bandwidth is more bandwidth: the next generation of automotive radar sensors will operate with 4 GHz signal bandwidth. "There's still a lot of room for development in this area," emphasizes Meyer. "Higher frequencies, higher bandwidth. That's exactly where our strengths lie."

The R&S®QAR radome tester, for example, is a unique test solution for analyzing the signal quality of radar sensors concealed behind covers. For aesthetic reasons, automotive radars are usually installed behind radomes and bumpers. The R&S®QAR tests whether the hidden radar sensor performs correctly. The measurement takes only a few seconds and delivers a millimeterwave image that can be interpreted intuitively. A very simple image that could save lives – because high attenuation of the radar power reduces the maximum distance at which a radar can detect a target, which can result in errors with dire consequences.

QAR innovation award screen
The QAR principle explained in a minute

Autonomous driving? Certainly!

Automated driving technology also supports people with physical disabilities or slow reaction times. "My father is a good example," says Jürgen Meyer. "Above a certain age, he always drove backwards without looking back. With ultrasonic sensors and a rearview camera, he could have been safer."

Engineers, accident researchers and insurance actuaries assure us that automated driving will significantly increase road safety. To reduce the number of accident victims, various safety systems will be mandatory starting in 2022. The new regulations are intended to pave the way to a driverless future.

In the meantime, some innovators are already looking further: autonomous flying in the form of electric drones that carry people. Will autonomous aircraft ultimately replace autonomous cars?

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