FRANKFURT am MAIN, Germany – Automated driving is coming – and with it ever more powerful systems that enable cars to monitor and safely navigate their surroundings. The latest, fifth generation of Continental’s long-range radar, with a range of up to 300 meters and unprecedented resolution, is one such system.
Without it, automated driving would not even be possible – something nobody could have predicted when the first factory-built vehicle equipped with long-range radar came onto the market 20 years ago.
Continental played a key role in this joint development with Mercedes: in the Mercedes S-Class (W220 series), Daimler offered its adaptive cruise control system under the name “Distronic” for the first time in 1999. It was the first adaptive cruise control (ACC) system in the world to use long-range radar. Its range at the time was 150 meters, making it the most advanced system of its day.
“With this system we broke new technological ground. The radar solution has since firmly established itself. Over 50 million long-range and short-range radar sensors have been produced by Continental alone – and the latest, fifth generation of long-range radar is ready to be launched just in time for its 20th anniversary,” sayid Norbert Hammerschmidt, Head of Program Management Radar at Continental, who was involved in the development of the first long-range radar in 1996.
While the radar system of 20 years ago was restricted to basic ACC, the latest generation offers emergency brake and traffic jam assistance in addition to stop and go functionality. In tandem with other surroundings sensors – such as cameras and lidar – radar sensors lay the foundation for the development of advanced driver assistance functions and automated driving.
Long-range radar systems are a standard feature in modern vehicles. They ensure greater ride comfort by enabling adaptive cruise control as well as improved safety because the radar sensor also activates the emergency brake assist in the event of danger.
Radar-based emergency brake assist has even been a legal requirement for trucks in Europe since 2015. In the late 1990s, however, it was far from certain that radar technology would establish itself for such applications. This is because infrared sensors were a much less expensive technology for detecting obstacles in front of the vehicle. Mercedes and Continental nevertheless favored the technically more sophisticated radar solution as it works independently of light and visibility conditions and also performs well in the dark and fog.