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Collision detection for cars? Yeah, scientists are on that. But whenever we read about concepts like this, the accompanying literature is often curiously light on details pertaining to real-life driving conditions; it's often unclear how well the tech will fare if you dredge it up on a foggy day, or in the middle of torrential storm. But in that press release you see down there, low visibility and poorly lit roads are all Panasonic wants to talk about. The company just unveiled its new crash-avoidance system, which, like other concepts we've seen, uses millimeter-wave radar technology to detect pedestrians and bicyclists. Since humans tend to reflect weaker radar signals than cars, Panasonic has designed a new pulse radar code sequence that allows pedestrians to leave a bigger footprint. It's so effective, the company claims, that it can detect bystanders up to 40 meters (131 feet) away, and will work at night and through rain, fog, snow and blinding sunlight. That all sounds promising, of course, but as with other concepts, it's not clear, when, exactly we'll see this system put to good use in the real world.

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Panasonic Advances Automotive Millimeter-Wave Radar Technology to Detect Pedestrians and Vehicles in Low Visibility Conditions

OSAKA, Japan--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Panasonic Corporation today announced it has developed an advanced radar technology for next-generation traffic safety systems that enables to detect humans and vehicles in a range of several tens of meters. This millimeter-wave radar technology allows for detecting objects outdoors in poor visibility conditions, such as night, rain and snow, as well as against the sunlight. When applied in traffic surveillance sensors located at intersections, this innovative technology will help increase automotive safety by detecting pedestrians and bicycles hidden in the driver's blind spots.

As accidents at intersections account for about a half of all traffic fatalities, preventive measures are required to avoid collisions there involving cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Panasonic's new radar technology enables traffic monitoring sensors at intersections to detect pedestrians and bicycles up to 40 meters ahead even at nighttime and under bad weather conditions that hinder the driver's visibility. By alerting the driver of the presence of pedestrians in the crosswalk or bicycles in blind spots, this technology helps to reduce the driver's burden and traffic accidents.

Panasonic's new automotive radar technology has overcome the difficulties with conventional millimeter-wave radar technologies; the advanced radar technology is capable of detecting humans and cars simultaneously in spite of the fact that human body reflects extremely weak radar signals compared with car body. This innovative radar technology has also achieved high detection performance with a range resolution of less than 50cm and an angular resolution of 5 degrees, which enables to detect pedestrians and vehicles. Furthermore, unlike optical and infrared cameras and laser sensors, whose detection performance can be significantly affected by visibility conditions, this new radar technology will not be subject to such conditions as nighttime, rain, snow or dense fog.

Panasonic has developed and incorporated the following new element technologies to realize the new millimeter-wave radar technology for automotive applications:

1) Coded pulse modulation technique that employs a newly designed code sequence for pulse radar method to improve sensitivity characteristics, thereby achieving extension of the detection range and finding out small objects that have weak radar reflection.

2) Adaptive antenna technique that combines radar beamforming transmission and adaptive array antenna reception with signal processing algorism for estimation of target direction, thereby achieving high angle resolution even with a smaller antenna compared with conventional one.

With regard to millimeter-wave radars, there presently exist radars for vehicle to measure distance to the vehicle in front. However, these radars cannot detect human body with high resolution due to very weak radar reflection of human body. In addition, an optical camera is commonly used as a traffic surveillance sensor. However, it cannot work well under certain conditions such as nighttime because it can provide almost the same information as the human eye can capture.

Panasonic has achieved the new radar technology as part of the "Research and Development Project for Expansion of Radio Spectrum Resources" supported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan. The company will demonstrate the technology at VTC (Vehicular Technology Conference) 2012-Spring (May 7 to 9 in Yokohama, Japan), using a test equipment with an experimental radio license.

On the new radar technology, Panasonic holds eighteen patents in Japan and six patents overseas including pending applications.

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Panasonic details radar-based technology that can detect collisions in low light