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

Hella will produce the electronic modules at its plant in Hamm, Germany, and ship them to Hella’s plant in Flora, IL, where they will be finished and prepared for delivery to the OE customer, says Ralf Voss, senior executive vice president for Hella’s electrical and electronics division.

Voss declines to identify the customer but says the vehicle will be sold in both the U.S. and Europe. He spoke with journalists during a luncheon here at this week’s Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

Unlike most other ACC systems currently in production, which rely on radar-based sensing of the vehicle ahead, Hella’s device 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-based systems are more complex, and that a 77 GHz radar system carries about a 50% cost premium over the lidar approach.

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

“We will be priced low enough for high-volume vehicle programs,” Voss says.

In addition, he believes the IDIS system will catapult Hella from a new, bit player in the ACC market 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 auto maker 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.

“Once people understand ACC, they don’t want to live without it,” Voss says.

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) with good lateral resolution, Voss says. The lidar unit will be positioned behind the grille and barely will be visible from the front of the vehicle, like a radar sensor.

The size of Hella’s lidar unit is comparable to that of a radar device, but Voss says the next-generation unit will be considerably smaller.

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

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.

Hella says the sensor is impervious to darkness, grime and adverse weather and can be mounted invisibly behind bumpers or other cladding.

Hella also will begin producing later this year at the Flora plant a rear-view camera that will be optional on a new U.S. vehicle program.

The complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) camera will be placed under the rear liftgate handle and will provide a complete view of the area behind the vehicle, when placed in reverse. The image will be displayed on the LCD navigation screen, on the instrument panel.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com