Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. will join the fray in the emerging adaptive cruise control (ACC) market when it begins supplying modules for an '07 U.S. vehicle program later this year.

Hella will produce the electronic modules in Hamm, Germany, and ship them to Hella's plant in Flora, IL, where they will be finished for delivery to the customer, says Ralf Voss, senior executive vice president-electrical/electronics division. Voss declines to identify the OEM customer.

Unlike most other ACC systems, which rely on radar sensing of the vehicle ahead, Hella will employ “lidar,” a light detection and ranging sensor that calculates the distance to an object as well as the object's side-to-side position and dimensions.

Hella says radar systems are more complex, and that a 77 GHz radar device carries about a 50% cost premium over lidar.

Because of the cost benefits, Voss says he is sure Hella's system — which will be marketed as Infrared Distance Management — will appear in popular-priced vehicles and achieve high volumes quickly.

Voss believes the system will catapult Hella from a bit player in ACC to one of the leaders. Driving the market currently are TRW Automotive, Continental Automotive Systems, Robert Bosch GmbH, Denso Corp. and Delphi Corp.

Another newcomer to the segment is Siemens VDO Automotive, which will supply its first ACC unit to a European OEM in 2007. Like Hella's device, the Siemens VDO system will employ lidar.

ACC uses a sensor to detect — and match — the speed of the vehicle ahead. When the lead vehicle brakes, so does the ACC-equipped vehicle.

A growing number of systems also are capable of “stop-and-go” functionality, meaning the ACC-equipped vehicle can come to a complete stop, without the driver ever touching the brake pedal.

This first program for Hella will not have stop-and-go capability, but future generations of the device will, Voss says.

Hella's unit will have the same range as a radar sensor — about 650 ft. (198 m) — in a multi-beam array (12 to 16 high-powered lasers), Voss says. The lidar unit will be positioned behind the grille and barely will be visible, like a radar sensor.

In other product developments, Hella is supplying its “lane-change support” system to Audi AG for the new Q7 cross/utility vehicle (see story p.45).

The radar-based system can determine the distance (up to 165 ft. [50 m]) and relative speed of other vehicles, especially those in a driver's blind spot.