Cars that autonomously make their way through dense traffic while people comfortably lean back and read the paper – autonomous driving is a huge future trend in the traffic sector. Spurred on by the automotive sector, the trend is increasingly expanding to encompass other modes of transport as well. Whether on the road, on rails, on the water, or in the air: Safety is essential for autonomous driving. The vehicles must to be able to observe and assess the traffic around them to initiate the required responses – for instance to fully brake when a child runs onto the street. Radar sensors are ideal for this task: Because, in contrast to optical sensors, they work day and night and in any weather condition – even in dense fog. One could say: Radar is the key sensor for more autonomy on the road, on rails, on the water, and in the air.

When it comes to radar, Fraunhofer FHR's Business Unit Traffic offers deep and diversified expertise: From high frequency systems and signal processing to the classification of objects all the way to electromagnetic simulations. The business unit boasts high-quality cutting-edge technical equipment and a staff with in-depth physical knowledge. But there is more: The staff members are also very well versed in the mobility industry and extremely familiar with current challenges and issues. Thus, in the Business Unit Traffic, even challenging problems can be resolved in a beneficial way and tailored individually to the customer.

On the Road...

Nowadays radar sensors are installed in cars as a standard feature to support drivers. The Business Unit Traffic has already contributed its expertise in this area as well: Special radar antennas from Fraunhofer FHR have been installed 30 million times in 100 different vehicle types. Currently, particular focus is on the miniaturization of the systems as well as the development of conformal antennas – meaning antennas that adapt to the car's geometry for an optimal fit into the available constructed space. Further current research approaches in the Business Unit Traffic address the question of how radar waves interact with different materials. This is important, for example, when a radar sensor is to be installed behind a company logo or the bumper, while being invisible to the user. Newly developed sensors are »put through their paces« in a test environment. Our simulation software GOPOSim allows for the insertion of different moving objects such as cars, bikes, pedestrians, and dogs into the different road scenarios.

...on the Water, in the Air, and on Rails

At the moment, the business unit is heavily marked by applications in the automotive sector. But the level of autonomy is also increasing in other traffic areas – bringing about the associated requirements for the sensor technologies. For this reason, the Business Unit Traffic has also made significant contributions to the development of a number of radar sensors for shipping and aviation. An example from shipping: The innovative sea rescue system SEERAD makes it possible to locate shipwrecked persons at a distance of six kilometers with a transmission power of only 100 watts – a world record. In the aviation area, Fraunhofer FHR has developed a landing assistance system for helicopters, among others. The system assists the pilot during the landing maneuver, when visibility is reduced by stirred up dust.

As far as the activities in railway traffic are concerned, the goal is to keep developing these in the future – because there are barely any solutions available in the market yet. The Business Unit Traffic wants to close this gap. There are numerous applications for radar systems in railway traffic: For example, the sensors could analyze the track beds, detect cracks in tunnel walls, measure track widths, and address similar questions.

Technical contributions from the business unit

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