Design & SimulationNovember 4, 2021

Antenna and Sensor Design for ADAS and AV

Placing antennas on vehicles can pose several challenges. SIMULIA can help.
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Stephen Jorgenson-Murray

This blog was originally published as a whitepaper, which you can download here


Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) offer an extra layer of safety and convenience while driving. Besides that, they are also an important step towards fully autonomous vehicles. Radar, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, 5G connectivity, smart road infrastructure and satellite navigation all help ADAS systems be aware of their surroundings, and all these systems heavily rely on antennas and sensors to function.

Placing antennas on vehicles poses several challenges. The body of a car can strongly influence the antenna performance, reducing efficiency and changing the field pattern. Different systems can interfere with each other and other sensitive on-board electronics. Water and dirt can also soil antennas and sensors, reducing their effectiveness. Simulation supports antenna and sensor system design and integration by allowing engineers to analyze their performance in real-world scenarios before committing to building a physical prototype.

Challenges of ADAS and autonomous driving

Antennas and sensors are necessarily very sensitive to their surroundings. In order to allow them to operate safely and reliably, unwanted influences need to be minimized. This is particularly difficult when designing a vehicle with limited space for mounting components, which also has to drive in unpredictable and highly variable conditions. The metal body of the vehicle can block and reflect electromagnetic waves. The performance of an antenna on a curved car body can also be very different to the idealized datasheet characteristics, which generally assume a flat ground plane. This can lead to blind spots in coverage for safety critical systems such as radar or cause spurious readings by affecting beam direction and side lobes. Therefore, component placement is critical to building an effective ADAS system.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) from other components can also cause issues. Radio and radar antennas, power electronics and high-voltage systems (such as electric drive systems) for example, can all radiate fields or generate currents that affect sensor performance. Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is likewise an issue—the sensors must not interfere with other systems in the vicinity and surrounding vehicles. Similarly, the fields radiated by antennas and sensors must remain within radiation hazard (RADHAZ) exposure limits. Occupants as well as passersby need to be safe when radar sensors are operating. The specific absorption rate (SAR) for human tissue needs to be analyzed for different use cases and under varying load cases to ensure compliance with regulation. Finally, factors outside the vehicle can affect antenna performance. Other vehicles, the road environment, and the weather can all reflect or absorb electromagnetic waves. Labs and test tracks offer an opportunity to measure how ADAS systems perform in different environments, but testing all the different scenarios that can occur would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

Benefits of simulation

Introducing simulation in the ADAS design cycle can significantly reduce development times, costs and above all, risks, by addressing the challenges listed above. Electromagnetic simulation calculates the electric and magnetic fields and antenna farfield pattern, as well as other relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) such as directivity and gain. These can be determined through simulation long before building a physical prototype. A wider variety of configurations—such as different antenna types and placements—can be analyzed in parallel in order to optimize performance. For these analyses, CAD models are directly transferred into the simulation environment, allowing engineers to rapidly see how design changes affect ADAS performance.

Multiple antennas and sensors can be simulated together in situ on the same vehicle platform. This means that parasitic effects and interference are taken into account during the simulation. Other components that might cause interference, such as on-board electronics and electric drive systems, can also be included. Furthermore, fluid simulation can be used to calculate the effect of rain and mud spray on sensors. The spray patterns, calculated at different speeds and in different conditions, help to identify potential issues before commencing wide scale test drives. Using the same model data for the electromagnetic and fluid simulation speeds up the process even further.

Vehicles can quickly travel tens or hundreds of virtual miles in simulation, covering a much wider variety of road scenarios than test driving alone could ever hope to match.

Collaboration and a combination of workflows to ensure vehicle safety and reliable connectivity

The increased complexity of ADAS and Autonomous Vehicles requires close collaboration between designers and engineering teams to solve the challenges and benefit from faster development cycles and reduced risk. Combining simulation workflows, and integrating simulation with other products, including CAD and PLM, can help to meet the common requirements and engineering challenges of ADAS designers. Components developed by different groups can be quickly assembled into a full vehicle model and prepared for simulation, thus ensuring that simulation engineers are working with the latest versions of the geometry and keeping up with changes made to the underlying models.

Antenna design—quickly providing the right antenna for the given application

One of the first steps of developing any ADAS system is to find the correct component for the application. Antenna Magus offers a searchable catalogue of antenna designs, and will automatically select and suggest antennas that meet specifications such as size, technology, frequency and gain. These can then be used as a good starting point and give confidence for the final antenna optimization.

Click here to read the full whitepaper.



SIMULIA offers an advanced simulation product portfolio, including AbaqusIsightfe-safeToscaSimpoe-MoldSIMPACKCST Studio SuiteXFlowPowerFLOW, and more. The SIMULIA Community is the place to find the latest resources for SIMULIA software and to collaborate with other users. The key that unlocks the door of innovative thinking and knowledge building, the SIMULIA Community provides you with the tools you need to expand your knowledge, whenever and wherever.

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