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8 November 2007


Infineon targets radar ICs at mid-range cars

Infineon Technologies AG of Neubiberg, Germany has announced the new RASIC family of radar system ICs, aiming to bring long- and medium-range automotive radar to mid-range cars as soon as mid 2010.

With the European Union planning to continue its safety campaign aimed to further improve road safety and decrease the number of traffic accidents by 50% by 2010, there is a need for the large-scale introduction of integrated safety systems that can help reduce accident risk in critical situations, says Infineon.

Long- and medium-range radar systems (covering distances of 20-200m to the front of a vehicle) can play a valuable role by identifying obstacles and automobiles ahead, despite visibility. If a collision is anticipated, headrests and seatbelts are in position to help alleviate the impact in advance of the accident. A similar signal is also sent to the braking or airbag systems. “Radar technology is the key to building innovative driver assistance systems to help avoid automobile accidents,” says Hans Adlkofer, VP and general manager of Infineon Technologies’ Sense and Control business unit.

However, with a price of more than €1000, existing automotive radar systems are very expensive and are an option in higher-end, luxury vehicles only. The systems also typically measure 10cm x 20cm, taking up a large amount of space in a car’s fender area.

For this very reason, Infineon has used silicon germanium (SiGe) technology, developed with the aid of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the KOKON project and designed and qualified specifically for automotive use, to fabricate a highly integrated radar chip. Unlike gallium arsenide components, SiGe manufacturing technology makes it possible to build simpler, smaller and more cost-effective radar sensors, says Adlkofer.

Infineon’s first radar chip, RXN7740, is a front-end chip operating in the 76-77GHz frequency range (thanks to the SiGe transistor’s transit frequency, fT, of 200GHz) that includes function blocks for the oscillator, the power amplifier and four mixers for multiple antennas. Compared to existing radar systems, which implement these functions discretely, the RXN7740 enables radar systems to be shrunk to a quarter of the current size, while reducing system costs for the RF module by more than 20%, Infineon claims.

Infineon has also introduced new, integrated test methods to ensure that its radar sensors meet the automotive industry’s demanding quality requirements. Initial samples of the RXN7740 radar chips are available, with production expected to ramp-up in mid-2009.

Thanks to the RXN7740 chip, long-range radar could become part of the standard equipment for automobiles in the mid-range automotive segment by mid 2010, reckons Adlkofer.

Market research firm Strategy Analytics predicts that, over the period 2006 to 2011, the use of long-range distance warning systems in cars could rise by more than 65% annually, with demand reaching 3m units in 2011, including 2.3m using radar sensors. By 2014, 7% of all new cars will include a distance warning system, primarily in Europe and in Japan, the firm reckons.

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