Innovating With Radar

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 […]

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

Radar Keeping Your Car Safe

How many of us actually think about automation and safety when we drive our cars? Rest assured, the Department of Transportation has a well thought-out plan which has been documented in a series of reports.  In 2017, DOT issued Automated Driving Systems, A Vision for Safety 2.0.  In 2018, the DOT expanded the scope of […]

How many of us actually think about automation and safety when we drive our cars? Rest assured, the Department of Transportation has a well thought-out plan which has been documented in a series of reports.  In 2017, DOT issued Automated Driving Systems, A Vision for Safety 2.0.  In 2018, the DOT expanded the scope of their guidance to all surface on-road transportation systems when they issued Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0.  Most recently, in 2020, DOT again expanded the scope of their guidance when they issued Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0.  

The concepts described in this series of reports date back to second half of the twentieth century (1950 -2000) when engineers concentrated on the most rudimentary safety and convenience features such as seat belts, cruise control, and anti-lock brakes.  During the next 10 years ( 2000 – 2010 ), engineers worked on advanced safety features like blind spot detection, and warnings for lane departure and forward collisions.  These advances simply alerted the driver to a potential safety issue, but still did nothing to remedy the situation.  From 2010 to 2016, engineers came up with driver assistance features like automatic emergency braking and lane centering assist.  These features were the start of the path toward fully automated vehicles.  From 2016 to 2025, we will become acquainted with partially automated safety features like adaptive cruise control and self-park.  All of this should lead us to a fully automated vehicle capable of driving on highways using autopilot in the years following 2025.  It has been a relatively short span of time, and there have been many advances in automated vehicle technology.

As automobile drivers, we are not really sure how these automated systems work.  We simply know that they work, and we are glad that they are there to help us out.  Behind the scenes, however, engineers and scientist are thinking about the requirements and designs and continuously developing ways to advance the state of the art. 

While radars were once only associated with complex military systems, they are becoming more common today in cars that require them for many of the automated features that have been developed over the years.  Simple radar technology is behind many of the collision avoidance features in today’s cars, and it was instrumental in turning simple cruise control into adaptive cruise control.   In order for automated features in cars to advance, however, so to must the state of the art in radar.  One such advance in radar technology is its ability to not only detect a target, but to track it too.  And then, another advance is its ability to track multiple targets at the same time.  Advances in this technology will truly advance our ability to move closer to the goal a fully automated vehicle.

To learn more about advances in multi target tracking, consider enrolling in the upcoming offering of ATI’s Multi Target Tracking and Multi Sensor Data Fusion.  Also, take a look at the schedule of upcoming ATI courses here