Over-the-Air Simulation of Echoes for Automotive Radar Sensors

Published: September 11, 2019

If you are testing radar sensors used to develop advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and functionalities for highly automated driving, do not miss out on the newest and most powerful partnership in the market. Since thorough testing of these safety-critical radar systems is a necessity, we at dSPACE now have the solution to raise your test endeavors to the next level.

Testing radar devices in all development phases, from chip design to end-of-line testing, is key to ensure that radar sensors work properly.

To support our customers in testing radar devices, we have formed a partnership with German-based miro-sys and Innovative Technical Systems Inc. (ITS), located in California, USA. Together, miro-sys and ITS have provided radar technology solutions for more than 30 years, setting quasi-standards with their products, which are widely used in commercial, automotive, aerospace, and R&D programs. Today, they are regarded as world market leaders in this specialty field.

Michael Rozmann, Executive Director and Owner of miro•sys

In partnership with miro-sys and ITS, dSPACE now offers turn-key systems for radar sensor testing. Branded as dSPACE Automotive Radar Test Systems (DARTS), you can now purchase several radar test system packages exclusively through dSPACE. 

“dSPACE is committed to accelerating our customers’ success. By expanding our portfolio to include radar technology solutions, we can now help our customers bring new functions to the market faster. We will continue to develop this technology in close cooperation with our partners. The upcoming milestones on our roadmap will be the most interesting ones yet.”

Andreas Himmler, Senior Product Manager Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing Systems

How Do You Simulate Radar Echoes?

Figure 1 - Principle of radar echo simulation in an over-the-air setup

Radar sensors detect objects, speeds, and distances between objects by sending out a radar signal. They then capture thousands of reflections caused by the surrounding objects. The DARTS simulate these objects, including relevant object information like speed, distance, and size. For the simulation, the DARTS is simply placed in front of the radar sensor.

The distance between the object and the radar sensor is simulated by delaying the reflected signal, speed is simulated by shifting the frequency, and size is simulated by attenuating the signal (Figure 1)

“All DARTS receive a radar signal, enrich the signal with object information, such as speed, distance and size, and then transmit the signal again. The radar sensor then receives the modified signal, which contains information for one object.”

Andreas Himmler, Senior Product Manager Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing Systems

More Flexible Data Processing

The DARTS technology is based on two operating principles, giving you the choice between a digital approach and an analog approach. 

Digital Approach

Figure 2: Digital approach.

With the digital approach, the analog radar signal is sampled with an analog-to-digital converter (ADC). The signal is then digitally delayed by a highly flexible FPGA. The delayed signal is then sent to a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), where it is converted for radio frequency and retransmission.

How can you benefit from the digital approach?

The advantages of the digital approach are a higher flexibility in data processing and a greater maximum delay, letting you simulate objects at a great distance. The DARTS can maintain the specified distance with the highest precision, down to the last centimeter. For example, if you simulate a target or echo at a distance of 10.06 meters, then the simulated distance will be exactly 10 meters and 6 centimeters.

Analog Approach

Figure 3: Analog approach

Alternatively, you can use an analog processing approach, where the signal is delayed by routing it through physical delay lines. The combined number of selected delay lines determines the simulated object distance. The advantages of the analog approach are a higher achievable bandwidth and the ability to simulate objects at very short minimum distances. 

Why Is DARTS such a Cutting-Edge Product?

dSPACE's radar test solutions have important, versatile features that ultimately determine the quality and reliability of the systems you develop.

Precision: For high-frequency systems operating in the GHz range that are also used for safety-critical applications, reliability, precision, and stability of the functions are particularly important. This is exactly what DARTS offer by means of high-quality components and sophisticated RF circuit technology.

Continuous range coverage: The DARTS product family`s dedicated design offers a low minimum distance (0.6 m) and also enables the simulation of large distance echoes (up to 1,000 m).

Flexibility: DARTS are regarded as the radar test systems with the smallest RF front ends in the world and are therefore ideally suited for dynamic angle simulations. The small size and low mass of the RF frontends offer almost unlimited possibilities in terms of test setups.

“With the DARTS technology, you can simulate a very short target distance of 0.6 meters. This is very important to account for factors such as a pedestrian stepping onto the road. By offering highly accurate simulation, the DARTS technology sets us apart from our competitors.”

Michael Rozmann, Executive Director and Owner of miro•sys

Sensor Testing in Adverse Weather Conditions? The DARTS Have You Covered

In both the digital and analog operating approach, you can introduce environmental influences (e.g., snow, rain, and fog) to simulation models during testing.  Interference signals and noise can be added to the simulator to create multiple reflections and mirror effects.

“You can push your radar system to the extremes and easily measure the effects.”

Michael Rozmann, Executive Director and Owner of miro•sys

Meeting Radar Sensor Challenges for ADAS/Autonomous Driving

Figure 4 - With DARTS, sensor capabilities can be determined quickly and easily.

Benefit from the reliability and flexibility of our integrated approach to tackle any challenges that lie ahead.

When you develop application software for ADAS and autonomous driving, you have to test the radar sensors, control units, and signal processing software under defined conditions, including extreme use cases, to ensure high performance and plausibility.

Ever Wonder How a Sensor Will Work in the Real World?

The DARTS technology lets you stimulate a sensor in the lab as it would be stimulated in the real world. Objects can be simulated at different velocities, distances and angles, while taking into account sensor properties such as antenna characteristics, sensitivity, resolution, separability, and linearity.

For scenario-based testing, thousands of simulation runs are required to analyze different traffic situations. With DARTS, you can perform quick tests of sensor controllers in complex and specific scenarios, and preprogrammed tests with varying parameters can be automatically executed. The high RF performance of the DARTS ensures a plausible correlation between objects (e.g., velocities, distances, and sizes). Additionally, by coupling a DARTS with a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) system, you can run comprehensive scenario-based tests and simulate the echoes for a more formal, detailed evaluation.

We want you to work as efficiently and precisely as possible. Therefore, you can combine DARTS with a dSPACE radar test bench for over-the-air simulation of radar sensors, enabling you to test radar sensors realistically and reproducibly in a laboratory. You can integrate up to five real objects into the test bench with the following manipulation parameters: distance, velocity, radar cross section, and azimuth angle.

Where Can I Use DARTS?

DARTS can be used across the entire radar testing spectrum – from chip manufacturers, to radar manufacturers, to OEMS and the aftermarket. Application fields include:

  • Radar test benches – Testing radar sensors with simulated objects with a wider azimuth angle
  • Chip testing – Testing integrated circuits for radar control units
  • ECU testing – Testing radar sensor electronic control units (ECUs)
  • End-of- line testing – Testing radar control units installed in vehicles
  • Aftermarket testing – Testing radar control units in installed aftermarket devices
  • Homologation – Verifying legal conformity of standardized tests for vehicles and radar sensors

Possibilities for Radar Sensor Simulation

Figure 5 - The dSPACE DARTS Radar Target Simulator Family.

Where can DARTS support you and your development process? The radar sensor test systems offer very precise, reliable echo generation for testing functions such as adaptive cruise control (ACC), autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and cut-in/cut-out maneuvers.

For quick and thorough testing, the DARTS come with a highly sophisticated RF circuit technology and highly accurate simulation to meet the demands of safety-critical applications.

The DARTS feature an extremely short lag between signal reception and transmission, enabling target simulation at very short distances. The systems support a wide distance range from 0.6 meters to 3,600 meters with a range resolution of 6 cm and a Doppler resolution of 0.1 km/h.

Additionally, the DARTS use the smallest RF front end (antennas) in the world, which is ideal for dynamic angle simulation.

The DARTS cover all required RF bands with a broad bandwidth of 1 GHz (digital) and 4 GHz (analog). This makes the systems a reliable source of stable reference frequencies (low noise).

Thanks to their unique digital signal processing capabilities, all DARTS are modulation-invariant. No matter the modulation format of your radar sensor (FMCW, coded or uncoded chirps, phase or pulse modulation, etc.), all signals will be processed without any performance degradation.

How Long Does It Take to Set Up a DARTS?

The DARTS have an extremely easy test setup.

“The systems are very easy to set up. In less than 7 minutes, we were able to make a new prototype radar run and perform a simulation.”

Michael Rozmann, Executive Director and Owner of miro•sys

Using DARTS with Other dSPACE Tools

You are already using dSPACE tools? Even better. The DARTS can work as stand-alone systems for radar testing or you can integrate them into a dSPACE radar test bench for cutting-edge over-the-air radar testing.

Additionally, if you use HIL or over-the-air test benches, you can combine the DARTS with other dSPACE tools, such as AutomationDesk, ControlDesk, ConfigurationDesk, and ASM.

More Information

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