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Radar Technology in Automobile Safety

12 APR 2013
Career Path : Automotive

Technological advances have been transforming the possibilities of automobiles in recent years, and the next generation of cars will see new changes that focus as much on enhanced safety as on environmental efficiency. Car safety used to equate to little more than airbags, a sturdy body and good brakes but modern carmakers are hard at work developing systems that may prevent collisions before they can begin. How is this possible? One word: Radar.


Radar in automobiles has long been associated with radar detectors used by speeding drivers to avoid hefty tickets levied by the police, a practice illegal in many areas. As it applies to modern cars, radar is used along with ultrasonic, Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) and camera-based sensors in everything from anti-lock braking systems (ABS) to innovative park/reverse assist systems. Some of these technologies are already standard features while others are gradually being tested and implemented in new models.


Milliwave Radar

The Japanese have been at the forefront of developing collision avoidance systems with milliwave radar. Milliwave radar can detect objects as far ahead as 100 meters, even in the dark or poor weather conditions. These systems, developed in 2003, kicked in if a car was detected dangerously close by first warning the driver with a buzzer and then automatically activating the brakes. Their high price discouraged widespread consumption but a more affordable option introduced in 2008 found greater popularity. This system used a pair of miniature cameras fit snugly behind the windshield to accurately measure distances between cars and, if necessary, give a warning to the driver or even automatically apply the brakes.


Driver Monitoring

Since most accidents are caused by driver negligence, some carmakers have set their sights literally on the driver with miniaturized cameras and image-processing computers, which ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road and don’t doze off. Those with dispatcher training may appreciate this product’s potential for truck drivers who spend long hours on the road. A car-mounted camera monitors the driver’s face direction and their upper and lower eyelids and gives a warning or hits the brakes if the driver has turned away or the frequency of blinking is less than average. One similar safety system uses inexpensive infrared lasers to only activate at the low speeds common in city driving and traffic congestion.


Moving Object Detection Systems

A little over a year ago, the world’s first moving object detection system was introduced using camera-assisted sonar units installed on all four sides of the vehicle and displayed on an “Around View Monitor.” Even previously undetectable blind spots and unseen pedestrians are shown on the display as an alarm sounds. It is hoped these innovations can be integrated into the driving experience without proving to be overly distracting.


Modern race cars are being equipped with new rear-facing radar that is capable of tracking approaching cars in any weather and alerting drivers with colour-coded symbols on in-car screens. Similar technology has been used in the development of self-driving cars, which also aim to enhance safety while transforming auto careers in the process by eliminating driver error.


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