The European Union has cleared the way forward for expansion of important automotive safety techniques, by approving further use of automotive 24 GHz Ultra-Wide Band radar technology.

This decision was published in the Official Journal on July 30 after being approved at a meeting of the EU Radio Spectrum Committee in Brussels, on July 6-7. The EU had first approved the use of this technology in a decision taken in 2005. That decision was scheduled to expire in 2013, however, which would have left industry without suitable tools to provide for a range of advanced systems, such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and pre-crash measures, such as automatic seat belt tensioners.

The new decision permits use of radar frequencies in the 24 Gigahertz range until 2018, with a phase out for existing car lines until 2022. All cars equipped with the radar by that date can stay on the market.

The automotive consortium SARA (Strategic Automotive Radar Frequency Allocation group) was the main proponent of the change. In an August 1 press release, the group said “this EU action resolved numerous technical details related to the use of radar frequencies, based on regulations that avoid interference from the radar to other spectrum users.” Dr. Gerhard Rollmann, chairman of SARA, said ”these technical issues were very controversial at the beginning due to interference issues. After over three years of debate we were able to resolve problems raised by other administrations and continue the use of this important technology.“ 

Studies by SARA member Mercedes-Benz have shown that 20 percent of rear-end collisions in Germany could be prevented using radar-based Brake Assist systems and accident severity could be reduced in a further 25 percent of collisions. The safety benefit was demonstrated in an analysis of the repair part statistics. Radar technology also is used to monitor driver blind spots. In 2010, Mercedes-Benz received the prestigious “Gelber Engel” (“Yellow Angel”) award for this application from the German automotive association ADAC. In its July 29 press release on the new decision, the Commission said “Widespread fitting of short range radar systems in cars could significantly enhance road safety for all road users and pedestrians."