IN THE AIR: Radar love
RADAR is an asset to drivers as it can quickly make measurements of relative speed while providing a range, so it knows how fast an object (car, van, human dog, etc) is moving towards or away from the vehicle. In comparison, cameras and LiDAR need to take multiple images over some time to estimate the speed of an object, which is less efficient.
Because RADAR is capable of several functions that help keep drivers as well as other road users and pedestrians safe, it is more important than ever that technicians have the knowledge and skills to understand these systems and complete right-first-time calibrations.
The first facet relates to accident prevention. With RADAR being able to perform calculations quickly, it means the other systems it works with can be brought into play sooner, such as the brakes being applied when RADAR detects the car is approaching another vehicle ahead or getting the car to accelerate when traffic allows. This is highlighted by Ford’s BlueCruise system, which is available in the Mustang Mach-E electric, that brings ‘hands-free’ driving to UK roads for the first time and uses the same technology as ‘normal’ driver assistance systems that use RADAR. However, what you do have to remember with BlueCruise is that the addition of a driver monitoring system ensures the driver is aware of what is going on at all times.
The second and probably most important aspect of RADAR, which drivers tend not think about, is how it helps with safety. This is highlighted in two distinct ways; The first is the cross-traffic alert RADAR, which is on the front of the vehicle. This helps drivers when pulling out at a junction because it can spot motorbikes, pedal bikes, or other vehicles that the driver might not see when pulling out, so it will either warn the driver or put the vehicle’s brakes on. Alongside this, there is RADAR at the rear of the vehicle, which helps when reversing out of blind driveways or into a parking spaces because if it detects something it will stop the vehicle.
Another benefit of RADAR is that it is not affected by natural issues that might afflict a vehicle’s camera. An example of this is a camera that is covered in tree sap after the car was parked under a tree for a few days. The camera is affected by the sap, but the RADAR is not, and this can lead to the car not travelling in a straight line. This results in the ADAS system being overridden by the driver to prevent issues caused by the camera. So, should technicians advise drivers that this can happen, so they are aware of what to look out for if it happens to them?
Finally, because RADAR is important to the ADAS systems within the vehicle, it must be calibrated correctly. We are now seeing a move away from a static calibration that uses a jig for calibrations to dynamic calibrations that take place out on the road. This move will make the calibration quicker and, in turn, will reduce the key-to-key times as well as the monetary cost of the job.
There’s no doubt RADAR is an important feature of cars because it does its job very well. Given its importance, bodyshops and repair centres can play a role in educating drivers about what it does, and the technicians must have the necessary skills to calibrate it correctly as a key part of ADAS systems throughout the vehicle.