Thursday, January 6, 2011

ABI Research Expects Adaptive Cruise Control for Most Cars

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) has been an option on high-end luxury vehicles for more than a decade, but in the next few years ABI research says it will become available on mid-size and family vehicles. Costs have been falling slowly but steadily over the years, and now a new development promises to bring significant price reductions for the consumer.

“The highest cost component of ACC has always been the radar sensor,” says ABI Research principal analyst David Alexander, “and now the cost advantages of silicon technology are going to take effect. We project that, by 2016, the lower costs will play a big part in increasing volumes and push the global market value up to $30 billion.”

While cameras and lidar sensors are still contributing to ACC systems, especially for the low-speed and stop-and-go features, the core component is still the radar sensor. With Freescale Semiconductor announcing in November 2010 that its Xtrinsic chipset is going into production, the new silicon-germanium technology will allow automotive radar sensors to benefit from the efficiency of the latest CMOS manufacturing techniques. Other suppliers are likely to follow.
“We also expect intelligent speed assistance (ISA) systems to begin appearing in 2013,” says research director Larry Fisher. “However, rather than being pushed as the next big thing, ISA will take the form of an add-on feature to increase the value of existing packages that include navigation systems and forward-looking camera sensors.”

ABI Research still doesn’t see any proposed financial incentives to encourage the public to invest in speed control systems, but the latest NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) assessments are now including driver assistance systems, and manufacturers will have to start offering them to maintain high star ratings. Research has shown that both ACC and ISA can have beneficial effects on traffic flow when used in sufficient numbers.

A few years ago at M/A-COM (now part of Autoliv), the automotive group was making good in-roads into SiGe designs which has been used in their latest generation ACC modules. This really drove the cost down along with lower cost packaging/antenna materials so I can see this being more widely available on mid-range vehicles as an option.

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