Rising Chinese mmWave radar industry spurs intense market competition

Annie Huang, Taipei; Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

With the progress in intelligence and stricter vehicle safety regulations, carmakers are facing a surging demand for sensors. In Level 2 self-driving and beyond, the market for automotive mmWave (millimeter-wave) radar is witnessing intense competition. Recently, Chinese contenders have entered the mmWave market, focusing on advancing the 77GHz mmWave radar. However, they are also grappling with price competition, resulting in a reshaping of the market landscape.

Currently, automotive mmWave radars are commonly deployed within three frequency ranges: 24GHz, 77GHz to 79GHz. The 24GHz mmWave radar often serves short-range detection systems, while the 77GHz mmWave radar is used for long-range detection applications such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB). Dominating the mmWave radar market are global giants like Bosch, Continental, Hella, Fujitsu, Denso, and other Tier 1 companies, who possess a significant share of the 77GHz mmWave radar technology.

As the 77GHz mmWave radar increasingly becomes the preferred choice for mainstream car manufacturers, Chinese enterprises investing in mmWave technology are actively entering the 77GHz sector. Chinese firms mainly focus on 24GHz, with only a few having the capacity for mass production of 77GHz radar systems. Key players include WHST, Chuhang Tech, Muniu Tech, Autoroad, and HASCO under the SAIC Group. Each of these companies asserts its achievement in attaining mass production capability.

At the beginning of 2023, rumors of Tesla's intention to incorporate 4D mmWave radar technology shine a spotlight on a select group of Chinese companies capable of large-scale production of this advanced radar technology.

Founded in 2013, WHST garnered investment from the leading Chinese security and surveillance firm, Hikvision. Its primary focus lies within the front-end market. In recent years, WHST embarked on the development of 4D imaging technology for mmWave radar, collaborating with China's Changan Automobile. During 2022, they successfully secured projects involving 4D imaging front-end radars with LiAuto, Hongqi, Geely, and Changan. By February 2023, WHST's 4D imaging radar model, named STA77-6, was integrated into the LiAuto L7 vehicle.

HASCO, as an affiliated entity of the SAIC Group, has seamlessly integrated its self-developed mmWave radar technology into various SAIC brands. In parallel, HASCO has secured orders from non-SAIC car manufacturers like NIO, Great Wall, Geely, Jidu, and Chery. HASCO has meticulously established a comprehensive range of long, medium, and short-range mmWave radars, encompassing functionalities such as in-cabin vital sign monitoring, electric door radar, corner radar, and front radar. Furthermore, recent structural optimization efforts have been completed within the domain of 4D imaging mmWave radar products. Currently, these optimized solutions are undergoing testing on specific commercial and passenger vehicles.

Chuhang Tech recently announced the successful European CE certification of two of its 77GHz corner radar products, which have been integrated into various vehicle models for Chinese clients. Overseas sales have also commenced. Strategically, the company is accelerating its overseas market expansion and has entered the supply chain of a renowned European car manufacturer. Collaborative efforts are in progress to develop the next-generation customized radar platform, slated for mass production in 2026. However, Chu Yongyan, founder and CEO of Chuhang Tech, previously highlighted at a forum that achieving mass production poses a significant challenge for manufacturers. The complexities involve the need for a comprehensive system, adherence to automotive regulations, and ensuring safety in the development of automotive radars. As a result, significant changes are expected in the Chinese mmWave radar market and industry in the coming years.

Taiwanese mmWave radar module manufacturers have also noted the development of the Chinese mmWave radar market, observing that Chinese companies are rapidly advancing within the automotive component sector, with a particularly strong competitive edge in terms of product pricing. Several years ago, these manufacturers had intentions to enter the Chinese market. However, due to intense price competition, they were compelled to withdraw entirely.