I am a person who always wants to know how things work. I can not simply use some fancy feature on my device. I must figure out how the feature works, and test it to see if I can figure out if the engineer was thorough in the design of the feature. This trait in me comes from many years of being the engineer designing the feature, and sometimes overlooking things that the end-user eventually points out to me.
I recently found myself experimenting with the Cruise Control System on my new car. I have had cars with Cruise Control before, but this car’s Cruise Control was far more complex than anything I had seen in my old car, and I had to know how it worked.
The cruise control in my old car allowed me to set the desired speed of the car; that was all it did. If I set the cruise the control for 60 mph, and steered into a brick wall, I would impact the wall at 60 mph, and die. The new car contained something which it called “Adaptive Cruise Control”, and it was there to protect idiots who might find themselves steering toward a brick wall at 60 mph.
With Adaptive Cruise Control, there is a radar mounted inside the grill on the front of the car, and there is a Cruise Control Computer which takes inputs from many sources, primarily the radar, and sends commands to your accelerator actuator. This radar points a beam ahead of the car. The radar senses what is ahead of the car, and the speed of what is ahead of the car, and adjusts your vehicles speed as required to prevent you from hitting whatever is in front of you. If necessary, as in the case of the brick wall, it will even stop you prior to impact, theoretically.
Wow, I thought. I need to test this. I need to figure out what the engineer forgot to consider. No, for those who may be thinking this, I did not try driving into a brick wall.
Amazingly, my Adaptive Cruise Control worked flawlessly, even though I sometimes could not figure how it knew what it knew. For example, if there is a cement barrier following a curve in the road, how does it keep the radar pointed at the car I am following, and not the barrier which is directly in front of me in the curve? Obviously, Cruise Control Computer must be getting inputs from my steering wheel, so it knows I am in a curve, and it steers the beam in the direction of the curve. Brilliant.
The use of increasingly sophisticated Radar technology in our cars today is pushing the limits of what used to be unimaginable. And, increasingly sophisticated Radars can be used in almost anything, not just cars, so the opportunity for innovation in Radar is limitless.
If you would like to learn more about radar so you can innovate new uses for radar, consider taking the upcoming ATI course Radar – Basic Principles. This course is intended for scientists, engineers, and technical managers who require an introduction to the basic principles and techniques used in modern radar systems. This is a new 3-day ATI course which replaces previous ATI Courses Radar 101 and Radar 201, which are no longer being offered. You can learn more about Radar – Basic Principles, and register for it here.
And, as always, you can learn about the full set of courses offered by ATI at www.aticourses.com