Present Forward Looking Radar (FLR) sensors commercialized in several high end luxurious cars, which can be classified as 'First Generation' sensors, opened the market of the Adaptive Cruise Control to the general public. These systems have reached an adequate level of maturity and performance that allows the customer to rely on the ACC functionality and feel comfortable.
Still, these systems suffer from several shortcomings:
- limited performance in azimuth angle coverage and short distance detection, and
- high cost.
The very low market penetration of the ACC compared with the predictions made several years before, can be attributed mainly to the high production cost which when multiplied by the usual factors of the automotive industry, brings the price to the final customer in the 1500 to 2500 Euro bracket. The lack of understanding from the general public of the advantages of an ACC system together with their high price (compared with other products like car stereo, navigation systems, etc…) has, to our understanding, limited the market penetration to a few 10 kunits/year instead of the expected 1Munits/year or more. The 'DenseTraffic' project addresses these two shortcomings.
The project's primary objective is to develop and demonstrate a Forward Looking Radar Sensor (FLRS) with improved capabilities that will allow operation in Stop&Go modes and early detection of Cut-In situations. This will enhance the functionality of the sensor in an Autonomous Cruise Control system. Additionally, but no less important, is to demonstrate the feasibility of a low-cost, high-volume production design that will allow the product to be mass produced. These objectives will be achieved with a multi-beam antenna utilizing metallised molded plastic and a multi-channel RF transceiver using MMIC technology.
The FLRS will consist of a single, multi-beam, integrated sensor and include unique built-in sensor self-test capability and algorithms for adaptive waveform generation and multiple target tracking. This advanced driver assistance system will improve safety in dense traffic and reaction to emergency situations by providing enhanced range resolution and angular coverage.
During the course of the development several innovations and engineering breakthroughs beyond the initial goals have also been obtained. Some of these innovations have been concentrated in a patent that has already been filed. The project objectives were achieved by a sequence of standard activities, beginning with analysis of the users' need and requirements followed by development of specifications for the various components of the system. Following this, the components of the system and the software for their control were developed and integrated. A data collection system was set up and several test vehicles (demonstrator) developed. This was followed by evaluation and validation of the system and finally, the exploitation and dissemination. The work package structure is made up of units defining each of the outlined tasks.
DenseTraffic has been a successful project from all points of view. The partners have been able to develop technologies that not only can improve their business but also that have, synergistically contributed to the well being of the population at large and specifically the reduction of traffic accidents and the human lives and property losses due to them. But still this very lofty statement can be brought down to earth and we shall try to sum up those technical points that are the building blocks of this construction.
- A mass production radome has been developed of moulded Ultem with 10% glass fibres. Metallic stripes are printed in the interior surface of the radome which functions as polarization filter. The conductive stripes have been replaced by resistive material and a radome heater has successfully implemented which improves the FLR performance in very cold weather by melting the ice and snow that otherwise could accumulate on the aperture.
- The original ERA design of the antenna was transformed to one appropriate for moulding materials. Still today we have to calibrate each antenna in the anechoic chamber and if we could reach a situation that a general look up table can be used for all radars, without calibration, and then the assembly cost could be greatly reduced. -The initial transceiver design allowed the demonstration of a multi-beam system (ubiquitous radar as coined by M. Skolnik, 2002). It has an impressive performance and 20 modules have been fabricated which have been used to fabricate 20 FLR's. The greatest drawback of this transceiver is its cost, which exceeds by more than a factor of 50 the target cost in mass production. It is therefore necessary to find a solution to this problem which otherwise is a non-starter.
- The analogue and digital signal processing and the communications electronics have been integrated three times to reduce the number of cards. The next step of further integration is to develop an ASIC to reduce the number of components and their cost and also to reduce the power consumption. Again this step is only warranted if the production numbers are of the order of 100K units per year.
- The power supply plays an important role in a radar. The signals are so faint and the amplification so large, that any noise contributed by the power supply leaks into the radar signal and produces all kind of spurious. Essentially, the
The DENSETRAFFIC proposal addresses the policy of the EU to develop Information Society technologies in a way that they will impact on the everyday lives of all citizens to raise their expectations for a better quality of life. In this case it is for safer driving conditions and a reduction of collisions by incorporating innovative technology into vehicles that will enable them to recognize the problem, warn the driver and automatically affect the vehicle's control system to avoid the collision completely or, at least, minimize the damage resulting from it. In addition, the proposal intends to address the cost of such sophisticated systems in order to reduce them so that the system can eventually be incorporated into all vehicles, benefiting everyone, men and women equally.
The system involves the integration of sensors and software with the vehicle's control system as well as testing the system to prove reliability. The technologies involved require the expertise of companies specializing in a variety of different areas situated in various European countries: ERA, antenna technology from the UK, EADS, part of the European consortium for space and aviation, worked on the RF transceiver in Germany, UMS worked on MIMIC technologies for the system in France, Groeneveld Groep, a Dutch company was responsible for dissemination and interface with the entire European automotive industry and RoadEye, an Israeli company, was responsible for the system design and algorithms as well as the coordination of the project.
An important consideration for including companies from different countries is the growing awareness of the need for vehicle standardization across Europe – vehicles are often assembled from parts manufactured in other countries and manufacturers of vehicles have assembly plants in countries often dictated by economic considerations. For this reason new systems need to meet standards of all European countries and standards are becoming unified.
The system is designed especially for European roads and driving conditions and integration of the DENSETRAFFIC system will avoid the necessity of importing competing technologies developed in the US and Japan in order to implement EU policy. In April 1997, a new EU Communication establishing a programme for the period 1997-2001 was adopted. The Communication takes stock of road safety matters in the European Union for the years 1993-1996. Among other trends it noted that figures vary widely from one cou