EINDHOVEN, The Netherlands, Feb. 15, 2017 – At the 2017 Automotive Innovation Awards held in Den Haag this week, NXP Semiconductors N.V., the world’s largest supplier of automotive semiconductor solutions, was awarded the esteemed prize for the best Dutch innovation in the automotive branch.

NXP was selected for the award in the Technology category with its Radar chip – the TEF810X. The chip uses RFCMOS technology for ultra-compact system design. Invented and designed in Eindhoven in cooperation with teams in Bangalore and Hamburg, it has been used in field tests with Google self-driving cars, and in radar specialist Hella’s automotive CompactRadar solution.

Improving Road Safety
Cars are equipped with an increasing number of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) based on a variety of sensors, such as radar, to increase the safety of drivers and passengers. To use this technology on a large scale requires affordable, compact and reliable sensors; the TEF810X is the heart of such radar sensors. They are used in Active Safety functions, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Self-driving cars are expected to use a radar cocoon setup with multiple sensors around the car to allow for a 360-degree view.

Enabling Radar Sensors the Size of a Postage Stamp
The radar chip integrates four essential functions of a radar sensor: it generates, transmits, receives, and digitizes radar signals. In order to achieve a high-resolution performance, for example to “see” pedestrians, the signals need to be very high frequency (76-81GHz). Before this innovation, three to four different chips were required to perform these functions, resulting in a rather bulky setup. NXP’s development team was able to address this challenge because of its key competency in designing radio frequency systems on silicon (40nm RFCMOS).

This high degree of integration makes it possible to reduce the size of radar sensors by 50 percent, from the size of a deck of cards to the size of a postage stamp and to simplify them. Instead of combining three to four chips on a printed circuit board, manufacturers of sensors can now use one chip. Energy consumption also decreases, as the connections between the functions are no longer made through the printed circuit board, but are integrated into the chip. This makes the sensor hardware much more streamlined, allowing for flexible integration of multiple sensors in future cars. In addition, all of these factors contribute reduced cost per sensor, thus making radar sensors affordable for all cars.

The radar chip is expected to have a major societal impact because of its promise in improved traffic safety. The European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) has researched the effect of Autonomous Emergency Braking, concluding that it can reduce the number of rear-end collisions by 38 percent. In its requirements for 2020, the NCAP places emphasis on vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. Radar sensors equipped with the NXP Radar chip have the right level of performance to make these road users perfectly visible.

“About 1.3 million people die in road accidents every year. We believe that Radar can play a key role in reducing that figure significantly, making global roads much safer than today,” said Kurt Sievers, executive vice president and general manager Automotive at NXP Semiconductors. “This is why we invest a great effort and passion in making the technology better, smaller, and more affordable. With around 400 automotive companies in the Netherlands, the automotive industry is a sizable one, and winning the Automotive Innovation Award is a great honor for us.”

The use of more Radars per car also increases the safety of road users in and around the car. Trucks will also be increasingly equipped with radar sensors, thus eliminating the notorious ‘blind spot’, which is now often the cause of accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. Increased safety also has secondary advantages: traffic jams are often the result of road accidents. Fewer road accidents will therefore have a positive effect on the flow of traffic.

The TEF810X RFCMOS Radar Transceiver is scheduled to go into production in early 2018.