Price and size constraints have limited the use of automotive radar systems to higher-end, luxury vehicles. That is set to change with Infineon Technologies’ announcement of a new family of radar system ICs (RASIC™), which could bring long- and medium-range automotive radar to mid-range cars as soon as mid-2010.

With the European Union planning to continue its safety campaign aimed to further improve road safety and decrease the number of traffic accidents by 50 percent by 2010, there is a clear need for the large-scale introduction of integrated safety systems that can help reduce accident risk in critical situations. Long and medium range radar systems can play a valuable role by identifying obstacles and automobiles ahead, despite visibility.

Infineon’s RXN7740 radar chip has the capability to meet these criteria. It is a highly integrated front-end chip for the 76 to 77 GHz frequency range, which includes function blocks for the oscillator, the power amplifier and four mixers for multiple antennas. Compared to current radar systems, which implement these functions discretely, the radar chip is claimed to enable vendors to shrink their radar systems to a quarter of the current size, while reducing system costs for the radio frequency module by more than 20 percent.

The front-end chip uses a manufacturing technology based on silicon germanium (SiGe) with a transit frequency of 200 GHz. The technology, developed with the aid of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the KOKON project, has been designed and qualified specifically for automotive use.