Radar for the road ahead

Almost every driver has known the frustration of being stuck behind a large truck on a country lane. Take your life into your hands and pass, or get to your destination an hour late at 25mph? Researchers at the Daimler-Benz Research Centre in Ulm are working on a solution. An alarm system based on radar which gives three-dimensional pictorial information on the surrounding traffic situation and allows the driver to `see through’ the vehicle in front.

Radar systems will be used on standard road vehicles in the near future for monitoring distance. But while they provide reliable information on vehicles driving directly in front, they cannot distinguish between vehicles and other objects such as protective strips or roadside trees which enter the field of vision on bends.

The Daimler-Benz system consists of an array of 16 high-resolution radar sensors which scan the surroundings and supply information on the size, distance and speed of objects identified. A 3D image of the surroundings is obtained. The data is then processed to allow the system to distinguish between vehicles and other objects.

A rather interesting side benefit is that the radar waves are reflected both by the underfloor of a vehicle and by the road surface itself. The rays are thereby routed underneath the vehicle in front as in a waveguide and can help identify vehicles even further ahead which the driver cannot yet see.

Daimler-Benz believes its system may also be useful in a range of other applications such as driverless transport systems, railway coupling systems and at cargo centres.

The system has already been demonstrated on a mock-up vehicle body with radar transmitter and receiver. In the next few months, the company hopes to reduce the size of the components so they can be used on board series-production passenger cars.