What Drives the Automotive Radar Industry?
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are ramping up the equipment rate for radar in their cars. Multiple developments are happening or are expected to happen. This includes a switch from 24 GHz to 77 GHz, a move from legacy radar without elevation capability and a limited tracked object list to 4D radar as a baseline and imaging radar in premium cases. There is also a trend toward centralizing radar computing and transitioning from planar printed circuit board (PCB) antennas to 3D waveguides. According to Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, the exterior radar market was US$6.7 billion in 2022 and is poised to grow to US$12.9 billion by 2028.
Cédric Malaquin, team lead analyst for RF activity within the power and wireless division at Yole Intelligence said, “Besides exterior radar sensors for driving assistance, our car interiors are becoming more monitored. The first implementation was a driver monitoring system to ensure the driver focused on the road ahead. A car occupant monitoring system is a natural extension for passenger safety, starting with child presence detection (CPD), though it also finds application in improving the user experience. Next on the list will be object monitoring, such as the position of a seat or headrest.”
A CPD system has been demanded in many markets since 2022/2023 (ASEAN New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), Euro NCAP), though the system itself is not regulated. In most cases, an indirect method is used (door opening cycle tracking and driver alerts). However, from 2025, a direct sensing method will be mandated in Euro NCAP, which is likely to change the market dynamics for in-cabin monitoring.
Radar is particularly well suited for this task as it can detect a child in a turned-back baby seat. It can also be used in vital sign monitoring.
The market opportunity is estimated at US$600 million by 2028, and market uptake is expected in 2025.
In this context, Yole Intelligence releases its new market and technology report: Radar for Automotive 2023. This study provides key market metrics and forecasts for the automotive radar market. It analyzes the drivers and challenges for the radar technologies’ adoption, and presents the main technical trends and ongoing developments with a focus on imaging radar and centralized vehicle architecture. Yole Intelligence’s analysts also review the leading players across the automotive radar supply chain and analyze how business models and supply chains are evolving.
Raphaël Da Silva, technology and market analyst at Yole Intelligence said, “Automotive radar sensors are starting a paradigm shift. Objective evolved from tracking a limited list of moving objects to generating a perceptual mapping.”
The first breakthrough improvement was enabling elevation measurements with radar modules (the “4th D” of radar). This was key to deciding on whether or not to drive over road debris and drive under bridges and has been the focus of fifth-generation radar from the leading players.
However, the most significant breakthrough required is the order of magnitude angular resolution improvement needed for proper target separation. The first so-called imaging radar achieved a 1 degree angular resolution by scaling the MIMO concept. The principle is to increase the number of transmit and receive antennas to get a bigger virtual antenna array aperture.
But there are some physical limits to antenna scaling, starting with the size of the array. Another limiting factor is the computing power and memory resources necessary for such an array. A solution could be computing centralization. With centralized architecture, the computing part of the radar is likely to be removed and delocalized to a zonal engine control unit. As a result, radars will be cheaper and smaller, and their computational power will be increased, thus improving their performance. Vehicle centralization is the new trend among OEMs and should become a reality around 2030 to 2035.
There have been substantial performance improvements in the RF sensor itself. Key figures of merit improved, along with better temperature stability. Meanwhile, integration has been further enhanced thanks to a move toward mature complementary metal oxide semi-conductor technologies.