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Autonomous driving technology is generally classified into sensing (cognition), judgment, and control operations. Among them, sensing solutions perform the function of being the “eye” of autonomous driving. To achieve Level 5 fully autonomous driving, high-quality sensor technologies that accurately detect objects and collect information for vehicles are required.

Can safe, autonomous driving be guaranteed in heavy rain, and pitch-black conditions, or even when detecting small objects or children? In this article, we would like to examine how far the latest sensor technology has advanced through changes in 4D-imaging-radar technology and sensor solutions for autonomous driving.

Major sensor solutions for autonomous driving

The three major sensors currently used in autonomous vehicles—camera, LiDAR, and RADAR—have different strengths.

1. Camera: Built-in camera sensors accurately recognize objects such as other vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lights, and traffic signs, transmitting the data to the computing device. The camera is the only sensor capable of capturing texture, color, and contrast data, and offers a high level of detail compared to other sensors.

2. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging): LiDAR can precisely recognize surroundings as three-dimensional images by emitting a laser pulse, receiving the reflected light from the surrounding target object, and measuring the distance to the object.

3. RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging): RADAR is a sensor technology that detects the distance, speed, angle, height, etc. of an object. It detects these by gauging the time difference from the transmitted high-frequency millimeter-wave (mmWave) signal and received signal and amount of doppler frequency changes.

Among these solutions, RADAR, which uses radio waves, has strong advantages in bad weather/external environments because it is less affected by nighttime darkness, fog, cloud or dust when it comes to radio-wave transmission and reception. In addition, it is less bulky than LiDAR, reasonably priced, and allows for more freedom in terms of design.

<Brief LiDAR vs. Conventional RADAR Comparison>

Emergence of 4D Imaging RADAR that addresses for the shortcomings of traditional RADAR

Based on the relative advantages of RADAR compared to those of other sensors, automotive manufacturers and solution developers around the world are addressing RADAR's shortcomings, improving its usage to suit their individual purposes. The development of 4D imaging RADAR is part of this transformation.

While the existing 3D RADAR can identify distance (range), direction (azimuth), and relative velocity (Doppler), 4D-imaging-RADAR technology adds another dimension of information: height (elevation, vertical angle). Therefore, 4D imaging RADAR can provide richer and more accurate data about the driving environment than before by identifying the height of an object or how high the object is located on the road.

•  Improved accuracy: It detects various reflection points using both horizontal and vertical data. The abundant data enable shape recognition and situational judgment with 4D high-resolution. Unlike existing RADAR, performance has been improved to the point of being able to distinguish whether the detected object is a person or vehicle.

•  Improved safety: It can detect objects up to 300 meters away, which is the threshold required for advanced autonomous vehicles. It can also recognize relative speed (Doppler) data that shows whether an object is moving toward or away from the vehicle.

•  Easy scalability: Compared to 3D RADAR, 4D imaging RADAR is 10 times more scalable.

As with the existing RADAR, reliability can be maintained regardless of various external environments such as bad weather, darkness, and air pollution. Therefore, 4D imaging RADAR could be the key for vehicles ultimately to enter the fully autonomous driving stage. The market size of RADAR modules for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles is expected to reach $8 billion in 2025 and $12 billion in 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.5%. Among them, the 4D imaging RADAR module, which is still a niche product, is anticipated to show a market penetration rate of 6.8% by 2025.

LG Innotek's differentiated RADAR

LG Innotek has a vehicle communication-module business foundation and substrate material business capabilities, developing and producing everything from materials to modules such as semiconductor/tape substrates. Having accumulated 5G antenna technology know-how and securing ultra-high frequency antenna design technology, the company offers a competitive advantage with its 4D imaging RADAR. 

With the transmitter/receiver alignment technology, which is the core competency of its global No. 1 camera module business, the company can provide customers with a competitive advantage of its 4D imaging RADAR as well as other autonomous driving sensor products.

Below is LG Innotek's RADAR product lineup. 4D imaging RADAR, which is currently under development, is expected to revolutionize the autonomous-driving market as the first digital-RADAR-technology solution in the automotive electronics industry.

<LG Innotek's RADAR product lineup>

The role of LG Innotek in the era of autonomous driving

Based on over 10 years’ experience in smartphone camera modules and automotive components, LG Innotek possesses the competitive capabilities to implement autonomous driving sensing modules such as RADAR, LiDAR, and cameras. In the era of advanced autonomous driving, LG Innotek can provide more advanced sensor fusion. This is a type of technology that integrates data input from various sensors such as RADAR, LiDAR, and cameras to derive more accurate results by using the advantages of different sensors for the surrounding environment of the vehicle. Sensor fusion is emerging as a key factor for advanced autonomous driving in the future.

Source: Cadence, 2018

LG Innotek has a high-precision sensor-fusion design capability that maximizes the synergy of a wide array of sensors based on an advanced understanding of automotive sensors and many years of mass-production experience. As an optimal partner leading technological innovation, we will continue to serve as a supplier supporting the sustainable growth of our customers based on our accumulated industry expertise and mass-production capabilities.

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