Safety or beauty? Radomes let automakers choose
Vehicle safety is in ever increasing demand by consumers. Automatic braking, autonomous cruise control, lane departure control systems, and blind spot sensors are just a few of the safety features consumers are now making basic requirements when considering new cars.
Some of these safety systems rely on long-distance radar to accurately sense the environment. Precise data from the radar systems is critical for the system to function properly. Inaccurate data or data that is ambiguous for the software algorithm to interpret leads to errors such as false-positives or false negatives. In some cases, this could result in the safety system failing to prevent a collision or reacting to a collision that isn’t there.
Designing and manufacturing an automotive radar system is not an event, it is a process. It is an intense process of tuning a radar system to eliminate those false-positive and false-negative results. It is no easy task. Radar engineers must balance multiple factors such as too much sensitivity, too little, where on the vehicle to mount the radar for best performance, energy, and—very importantly—the interference generated by the vehicle. The vehicle itself is a significant obstacle to the radar system.
Many people ask how the vehicle can be an obstacle. In a word, styling. Styling is king. If the vehicle doesn’t look right, it doesn’t sell. The best place to put radar is high and centered on the vehicle. This way the radar system gets the best view of its surroundings and offers the best performance in emergency situations. But nobody—consumers or OEMs—wants to see an ugly radar system poking through the front of their vehicle. Also, this area is commonly where automakers place their coveted emblems.
So, when a choice must be made between optimum radar system performance and vehicle aesthetics, the latter almost always wins. This means radar systems can be relegated to the bottom of the front bumper or other areas that are less prominently visible, which results in a reduction in performance. With increasing demands placed on radar systems, especially with autonomous vehicles becoming a reality, reduced performance is no longer an option.
Today, there is a way to have it all. Thanks to a precisely crafted device, automakers can place their radar anywhere on the vehicle without sacrificing styling details or, more importantly, radar performance. This carefully crafted device is called a radome. More than likely, we’ve all seen one and didn’t think twice about it. The word radome is a portmanteau, a word formed from parts of two other words. In this case, radar and dome.
Decorative automotive radomes are an engineering, scientific, and manufacturing feat. The science of radar and its interaction with matter must be fully understood and translated into engineering requirements. Those requirements then need to be turned into reality through a tightly controlled series of manufacturing processes. The final product is something that looks like a simple emblem, but is, in reality, much more.
The decorative automotive radome has arrived, giving the safety and engineering world the performance necessary to save lives. It helps make autonomous vehicles a reality. It satisfies engineering requirements, while still allowing automakers to retain the styling critical to market success. Thanks to this device, automakers, consumers, and engineers don’t have to sacrifice anything for a fully optimum radar system.