Eagle-eyed cars

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Eagle-eyed cars

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

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Updated on 13-May-2024 🛈
Originally published on 09-Jan-2020

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.

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.

Tomorrow's mobility is stirring

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.

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

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: 2035, 2030, 2025?

"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.

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?

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

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

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

R&S®QAR: for more safety with automated driving

Radar technology is indispensable for highly automated driving. Radars are usually hidden behind bumpers, design emblems or other plastic parts. Design is a decisive factor in whether a new model gets off to a good start on the market. In order for automotive radar sensors to deliver faultless results despite design considerations, the material of the parts or radomes that cover them must allow the radar signals to pass through. Andreas von Lösecke, Product Manager Imaging Products at Rohde & Schwarz, talks about the current challenges in the industry, the R&S®QAR – a unique solution for radome tests – and other automotive test solutions from Rohde & Schwarz.

Why is adequate testing of radomes so important?

In the industry there is a rapidly growing awareness of the importance of radome tests. They ensure that radomes and their covering do not impair the functionality of radars. That's because the more intensively we use technologies for autonomous vehicles, the more important it is to correctly perceive the environment – especially with regard to safety. It's the same as with our eyesight: a radar, like a pair of eyeglasses, allows us to see certain things. The quality of the radome determines how clean the glasses are and how clearly and homogeneously we can perceive our environment.

What is the operating principle of the Rohde & Schwarz test solution for checking the quality of radomes?

The R&S®QAR can generate spatially resolved millimeterwave images of radar reflections and the degree of transmission of a radome to visualize inhomogeneities in the material. Measurements with the R&S®QAR take just a few seconds and are very precise. Unlike customary production measurement methods, the measurement is independent of a golden radar device, and requires significantly less space than a conventional setup with several angle reflectors.

Going back to the analogy with eyeglasses: they should be equally transparent everywhere. The objective of the R&S®QAR is to ensure this. If this homogeneity is not achieved, there will be distortions and the radar will detect things in places where nothing is there. As a result, downstream functions may be falsely triggered, for example causing emergency braking of a vehicle unnecessarily. The R&S®QAR enables manufacturers to avoid situations like this.

What do the results look like?

The results from our radome test are divided into data about reflectivity and data about transmission. The reflectivity is spatially resolved, which is the unique capability of the R&S®QAR. It allows us to easily see where there is something wrong with the radome. We may not be able to say directly what the cause is, but in most cases the radome manufacturer can help with this – for example, when there are problems with delimitation here during production.

Already during production, the R&S®QAR can ensure that all radars are properly mounted, calibrated and in good working order. We have also expanded the instrument's imaging functionality so that we can evaluate a vehicle's CAD data that we obtain from the manufacturer. This means we take a picture with the R&S®QAR – that is our actual data – and compare it with the nominal data from the CAD drawings. Then we can see if the radar is mounted in the right place or something is damaged. This can be used in production the same way as at a car repair workshop.

The technology of the R&S®QAR is based on the technology of the R&S®QPS security scanner. What are the differences?

Obviously, the application area of a security scanner is completely different. Its technology is based on a neural network that looks for unknown and possibly dangerous objects, such as weapons, explosives, etc., in the scanned image of an unknown person with unknown clothing. In contrast, the objective of the R&S®QAR is to make a qualitative assessment of reflection and homogeneity. This means the challenges with radome tests are different, but of course we benefit enormously from the experience we have acquired with the security scanner.

The R&S®QAR is being deployed in many areas of autonomous driving. How do you estimate the future of the market?

Initially this technology will be expensive and more relevant to the logistics sector or mobility service providers. We will have to wait a while and make further refinements before autonomous driving becomes established in the private sector. And that's what we're doing: the more autonomous driving is used, the more sensors will be needed – which means more radars and radomes. Ten to fifteen radars are installed in a highly automated vehicle, mostly hidden behind radomes, bumpers, and front or rear aprons. All these devices and coverings must be tested in production.

What else needs to be tested to arrive at a perfectly functioning radar?

We support every step in the radar development process. From radar chip development to the interference immunity characteristics of the radar to the radome, we have a variety of test solutions available: the R&S®FSW (spectrum analyzer) or the R&S®RTP (oscilloscope) and signal generators. For example, we recently launched an innovative test chamber for indirect far-field measurements, for testing automotive radar sensors. In the end, when all eventualities have been tested and the resulting best possible radar has been installed behind a bumper, this naturally has to be tested as well. For all of this, we have in every case the perfect measurement method.

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