Magna unveils high-definition radar that accelerates advances in autonomous driving capabilities


Canadian automotive technology company Magna has unveiled a new ‘military-grade’ high-resolution radar unit for autonomous vehicles (AVs) at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan.

Magna says the technology sets a new standard in high-resolution automotive radar, allowing auto makers to close the gap between SAE level 3 and level 5 autonomy, and reach fully-reliable self-driving capability. The company’s new Icon Radar system incorporates advanced technology used by the US military to provide precise detection, extensive range, and high resiliency. Magna has been collaborating with Uhnder, a technology startup currently in ‘stealth mode’, in engineering and product development to help bring this technology to market in 2019.

With a range of more than 985ft (300m), Icon Radar continuously scans the environment in four dimensions: distance, height, depth and speed. The advanced radar technology can detect and track almost 100 times more objects than competitive systems and individually classifies them. It can detect and communicate to the vehicle a rich topography of static objects, such as guard rails, road debris and speed bumps, as well as a large number of tracked moving objects, such as vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians and pets.

Having the ability to distinguish smaller ‘objects’, such as children and bicyclists, in close proximity to larger, more easily detectable things such as parked cars and moving trucks, is critical to the enhancement of safety ADAS features such as Automatic Emergency Braking, and to further the progress toward full autonomous driving.

Icon Radar continuously scans its environment 50 times faster than the time it takes a human to blink an eye, which helps a vehicle make instantaneous decisions in response to complex surroundings, detecting other vehicles at distances that exceed any current requirements.

Icon’s state-of-the art imaging capability pulls from 192 virtual receivers incorporated into a single compact system. These virtual receivers are applied to deliver both horizontal and vertical resolution, achieving new benchmark levels for each. The technology is naturally immune to interference, which will become critical as the number of radar-enhanced vehicles on the road increases. Featuring a compact size, the Icon unit can be easily integrated into an auto maker’s existing autonomous system or as part of Magna’s MAX4 autonomous vehicle platform.

“We have identified some of the world’s most advanced technologies and ‘auto-qualified’ them for use in the auto industry,” said Swamy Kotagiri, Magna’s chief technology officer. “Our Icon Radar takes the best of military technology and improves on it for automotive use, taking a significant step forward toward full autonomy.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).