India needs to be on the ‘radar’ for road accidents

Carmakers like Mercedes are seeking a bigger play for radar-based driver assistance systems

India is in the midst of Road Safety Week, which kicked off on Monday. It is a timely initiative given that the country heads the list of road deaths globally with over 150,000 lives snuffed out every year.

Radar-based driver assistance systems have come to the fore as a counter to check road crashes. Technological advances are now permitting proactive safety features, such as blind spot monitoring, lane-change assistance and automatic emergency braking system, etc.

Mercedes-Benz is a case in point whose products worldwide come with radar-based driver assistance systems except that they are yet to debut in India. “We are unable to introduce the state-of-the-art technologies in our products in India since the requisite frequency bands were not delicensed (by the Centre),” Roland Folger, CEO, said in an email.

While welcoming the Centre’s decision to implement stricter crash test norms for cars and making them compulsory from October 2017, Mercedes hopes more radar frequencies can be delicensed. This will allow the company to roll out some prime safety features on its models.

Delicensing spectrums

“We had requested the Centre for delicensing of 24 GHz, 76 GHz and 79 GHz radar frequencies considering our immediate and future requirements,” said Folger. “The Ministry of Communications and IT last year delicensed only 76 GHz.”

Most automotive radars use frequency spectrums ranging from 24-26.65 GHz and 76-81 GHz to interact with their surroundings. In India, the spectrums of 24, 76 and 79 GHz were reserved and regulated by the Department of Telecommunications, restricting manufacturers from equipping their cars with these technologies.

However, the release of the 76 GHz spectrum has still helped the cause. As Folger adds: “The release of 76 GHz will pave the way for the release of other frequencies as well. The current enabling technologies used in the radar-based features work on different radar frequency ranges (including 76 GHz).”

The company has been urging the Centre to delicense the spectrum commonly used by automotive short range radar systems in high-tech cars. These radars are used for a host of advanced driver assist systems and help improve road safety.

Preventing accidents

Experts insist that one in every three fatal accidents can be avoided if collision avoidance systems such as automotive radars are installed in vehicles. These provide safety features such as collision detection, forward collision warning alerts, automatic emergency braking system, blind spot detection, side-view assistance, etc.

In order to provide essential functions for car safety, systems must be able to distinguish more clearly between objects on the road. This requires more bandwidth and a higher frequency range, (just as in mobiles) enabling better resolution, clearer and more accurate pictures and better object distinction. These are essential for pedestrian detection or autonomous emergency braking systems.

Multiple objects cannot be distinguished if they appear in the same range. In such cases, spatial resolution is low, and several objects tend to get fused, which is what happens with the use of narrow bandwidth. The possibility of using a larger bandwidth and frequency allows for high spatial resolution and better capability of distinguishing between objects, thereby preventing road accidents.

Vehicle radars have been available in select models of Toyota since 1989, Nissan (1993) and Honda (1994). General Motors advertised a rear detection vehicle radar in the early ‘90s while Jaguar announced an automatic cruise control (forward radar) in 1999.

Mercedes’ move

This was also the year when Mercedes advertised for its S-class cars an automatic cruise control (Distronic forward radar) to track moving vehicles 150 metres ahead. The company’s assistance systems based on sophisticated radar technology, using Distronic Plus and Brake Assist Plus, have effectively contributed to accident prevention. It reached this conclusion after carrying out an analysis on the basis of representative accident research data.

Mercedes noted that an average of one fifth of all rear-end collisions could be prevented in Germany alone. On motorways, rear-end collisions could be reduced by an average of 36 per cent. The Mercedes-Benz systems warn drivers when they are maintaining too little distance from the vehicle travelling in front, and provides support in the event of emergency braking.

Engineers in Germany developed a procedure, which makes possible a predictive calculation ensuring safety offered by the interaction of modern radar and braking technology on motorways. More than 40 per cent of all S-Class saloons are equipped with the radar technology.

Published on January 12, 2017
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor