Radar systems for greater safety in cars, planes, trains and ships

Safety is elementary in autonomous driving. Radar sensors are tailor-made for this task: Unlike optical sensors, they work day and night and in all weather conditions – even in dense fog.

The business unit Traffic of Fraunhofer FHR offers a deep and broad scientific expertise in terms of radar: from high-frequency systems and signal processing to classification of objects and electromagnetic simulations. 

On the road...

Today, radar sensors are already installed in cars almost as standard to support the driver. Here, too, the Business Unit Traffic has already contributed its expertise: special radar antennas from Fraunhofer FHR, for example, have already been installed 30 million times in 100 different types of vehicles. The current focus is primarily on miniaturizing the systems and developing conformal antennas – i. e. antennas that can be adapted to the geometry of the car and thus fit well into the available installation space. Other current research approaches in the Traffic Business Unit are concerned with the question of how radar waves interact with different materials. This is important, for example, if the radar sensor is to be installed behind the company logo or bumper so that it is invisible to the user. In a test environment, newly developed sensors are put through their paces by simulation. Using our simulation software GOPOSim, various moving objects such as cars, bicycles, pedestrians can be integrated into the different street scenes. 

...on water, in the air and on rails

At the moment, the business field is strongly characterized by applications in the automotive sector. However, the level of autonomy is also increasing in other areas of traffic – with the corresponding requirements for sensor technologies. For this reason, the business unit Traffic has already made important contributions to the development of several radar sensors for shipping and air traffic. One example from the field of shipping: The innovative SEERAD sea rescue system makes it possible to locate shipwrecked persons at a distance of six kilometers with a radar transmission power of only 100 watts – a world record. In the field of aviation, Fraunhofer FHR has developed, among other things, a landing assistance system for helicopters. This assists the pilot during landing maneuvers when swirling dust obscures the view.

As far as activities in rail transport are concerned, these are to be further expanded in the future – because hardly any solutions are available on the market here yet. The Traffic business unit aims to close this gap. There are numerous applications for radar systems in rail transport: For example, the sensors could analyze track beds, detect cracks in tunnel walls, measure track gauges and address similar issues.

Technical contributions from the business unit

Collision-free despite crowded airspace

Jorge Centenera Zafra, M. Sc.


Metal-coated radar antenna from the 3D printer

Carlos Galvis Salzburg, M. Sc.


More safety on the roads

Dr.-Ing. Reinhold Herschel


Accurate positioning for self-driving cars 50

Dr. rer. nat. María A. González-Huici


Time-dynamic radar simulation of traffic scenarios in real time

M. Eng. Stefan Wald

Early detection of track bed damage using radar

Dr.-Ing. Fernando Rial Villar

Precise material characterization

Dr.-Ing. Thomas Bertuch

»Driverless« cars. How they can safely hit the road

Dr.-Ing. Thomas Dallmann


Reliably finding shipwrecked persons – with a novel radar system

Dr.-Ing. Thomas Bertuch



Autonomous driving: recognizing obstacles and analyzing their height

Dr. rer. nat. María A. González-Huici



LIDAR system with encanced environment perception

Dr. rer. nat. María A. González-Huici



Cyclists and pedestrians – optimally protected

Simon Wagner, M.Sc.