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Smallest radar chip for cars is the size of a postage stamp

Chipmaker NXP has a new radar transceiver built for the automotive market, unveiled at CES today, measuring just 7.5 millimeters per side.

Delphi fitted this Audi with a variety of sensors, including radar transceivers hidden in the fascia, to enable self-driving.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Radar seems like an expensive technology, but automakers are quickly adopting it to enable advanced safety features. To make help make this safety technology available in the widest array of cars, NXP introduced a new radar chip today at CES. This radar transceiver, square-shaped, measures just 7.5 millimeters (0.3 inches) per side.

In today's newest cars, radar enables features such as adaptive cruise control, which automatically matches the speed of your car with slower traffic ahead, and systems that automatically hit the brakes to prevent or mitigate collisions. Radar, camera and laser sensors are being tested in prototype self-driving vehicles, as well.

In a phone call with CNET, NXP Senior Director Leland Key pointed out that the size of the chip gives auto designers flexibility in positioning these sensors. He noted the circular sonar sensors evident on many cars today, and how NXP's radar chip can sit behind the skin of a bumper, with no impact on the car's look.

And although the NXP chip uses lower power than many current chips on the market, its 77GHz frequency offers high resolution with comparable range and spread.

Key would not comment directly as to pricing for automakers or equipment suppliers, only to say that NXP's new chip would be "competitive".

During CES, NXP will demonstrate its technologies on the ground at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

See all of our coverage of CES 2016 here.