Vivek Bhan, Senior Vice President of Renesas Electronics, makes it clear in an interview with Markt & Technik that the company is more than ambitious to play a much more important role in the fields of "ADAS/AD" and "EV" in the future.
Markt & Technik: Renesas Electronics is acquiring Steradian Semiconductors, an Indian start-up focused on radar applications. What does the company expect from this?
Vivek Bhan: As you know, more and more ADAS applications or systems for autonomous driving, AD systems for short, are migrating into today's vehicles and this trend will continue in the future. In the course of this, sensor fusion represents an important function. For this purpose, the data of different sensor technologies, starting with camera-based systems, radar, and other technologies such as ultrasound and LiDAR, are processed together to generate the most accurate possible image of the vehicle's surroundings.
However, this also means that more and more sensors are moving into vehicles. Radar plays an extremely important role in this, as this technology makes it possible to detect objects accurately even at a great distance, and at day or night, even when weather conditions are poor.
As the level of automation in the vehicle increases, so does the number of sensors that have to be integrated into the vehicle. While two cameras, one radar and various ultrasonic sensors are sufficient for level 2, the requirements for levels 4 to 5 are quite different. With such a high level of automation, it can be assumed that around 12 cameras, nine radars, one LiDAR and up to 12 ultrasonic sensors will be integrated in the vehicles.
It is thus clear that radar is a very important segment in the automotive market. The demand for radar is expected to triple between 2021 and 2026, from 78 million units in 2021 to 229 million units in 2026.
There are different types of radar implementations: Medium-range, long-range and short-range radar. These technologies in combination with camera technology form a comprehensive system for ADAS applications and are definitely a rapidly growing market segment in the automotive sector.
The acquisition of Steradian is part of our strategy to expand in the ADAS/AD segment, because with Steradian Semiconductors, Renesas can now be active in the radar market, and this does not only apply to the automotive market, but also in the industrial segment.
Which area is more important for Renesas, the automotive segment or industrial applications?
There are definitely opportunities to use this technology in both areas. As an automotive expert, I naturally see the fundamental importance of radar in the automotive industry as a priority, because this technology is indispensable in this segment. Nevertheless, from the point of view of the company as a whole, Renesas can also use this technology to expand its presence in other markets, such as industrial.
Renesas has already been very active for a long time when it comes to camera applications in vehicles. But not with cameras, but with the computer units that process the data. With Steradian Semiconductors, the company is getting in on the transceiver side, why?
There are several approaches that are emerging, and we will participate in all the major ones. One type of architecture is what we call satellite radar, where information is collected and passed to a central SoC or compute engine. In this case, that means there is a front end with transceivers that collects the data, and most of the processing takes place in the SoC. Another architecture is based on distributed computing units. Our roadmap will allow us to address both architectures, this also means that we will integrate some of our digital IPs into the RF transceiver.
And just to state it again, radar is fundamental to ADAS, and we are determined to expand our offering in automotive as the market continues to grow very strongly. But as I said, we are also convinced that this technology can be used in many other applications such as in industrial or in other areas, which means that with the acquisition of Steradian, we are in a position to serve these applications. Because Steradian has a lot of experience in radar, including RF transceivers and semiconductors, but also when it comes to radar modules, SDKs or software for radar systems. So the company has all the necessary capabilities and with the acquisition, Renesas can leverage those capabilities in the future.
In addition, the company is a leader in 4D millimeter-wave radar, a know-how that is indispensable for driver assistance systems. In this case, 4D means that distance, direction, height, motion and speed can be measured. In other words, this covers all dimensions, making these high-performance imaging radar solutions extremely well suited for today's automotive and industrial sectors.
There are already very well-known companies in the semiconductor sector, such as NXP or TI, that are active in this area. How do you position Renesas in combination with Steradian in the field of radar transceivers?
When looking at radar systems, RF plays an important role. Our analysis has shown that Steradian can compete with very good parameters on this point in particular with regard to sensitivity and power consumption. This means that we are convinced that we can definitely play at the forefront with regard to HF. In addition, the Steradian approach also makes a relatively small solution possible, so that the overall costs are low. So it's clear that we can compete because our radar systems are highly sensitive, low power and improve system costs - together with the fact that we, as Renesas, offer developers the ability to easily integrate these systems, should convince many developers.
So we have clear differentiators, and when you combine that with our computing capabilities, the software and camera activities that we can offer, that clearly creates a position to be competitive in the market.
Is Steradian's approach based on CMOS technology?
Yes, but I would like to point out another advantage. We still expect to complete this acquisition by the end of this year. That means that in the radar segment, we will initially start with transceivers, modules, modules with antennas and SDKs. But as a whole company, Renesas can offer much more comprehensive systems in the future.
As you know, Renesas also offers components that have high computing capacities. So in the future, we can also offer approaches that enable the processing of radar data in addition to the radar sensor, plus the corresponding power management that ensures the system's power supply. If you combine Steradian's transceiver and edge software with our expertise, then we can offer optimized systems. That makes it clear that we see the Steradian acquisition as quite complementary!
Now I must hook in again: NXP also offers transceivers and the corresponding radar processors. Renesas has been working with Steradian for some time now, but still: Isn't Renesas a bit late to enter this market?
No! It's true: We have already been working with Steradian for some time and are accordingly very familiar with the technology and the team. According to the schedule, we will deliver the transceivers this year. This means that we will initially only supply the transceivers, but in the long term we will also supply complete solutions, including the computer unit. To make it clear once again: in 2022, Renesas will launch a radar transceiver for automotive applications, because, as I said, there is definitely a need for this, as this transceiver will be able to be connected to various SoC systems. A Renesas SoC for processing the radar data will follow later.