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Driverless Cars on Road, Sensors are the Secret!

Enterprise Technology Review | Monday, August 26, 2019

Days when your car self-drives you to your destination are no far! With advanced sensors in the market, automation in vehicles is taking a huge leap.     

FREMONT, CA: Gone are the days when a vehicle used to be a simple machine with an engine that ran on fuel. This definition will not fit it anymore. The general perception about vehicles is changing with each passing day owing to the rapidly evolving models which have futuristic features. The modern automobile industry is geared up towards the era of driver-less cars and autonomous vehicles. These developments picked up the pace with the advancement in technologies and have converted the simple vehicles into computerized entities.

The tech-savvy population is now all set to experience a whole new level of driving experience as vehicles become sophisticated with their features but simpler to control and safer to drive. The most integral constituent of such cars is intelligent with powerful sensors. Thus, sensors are the key ingredients that allow vehicles to garner crucial information, which is then processed in real-time to enable automation. Following are the ways in which various kinds of sensors benefit the automobile industry.

• Sensors Enhancing Safety and Navigation

Driver-less vehicles require automated controls, data processing, and intelligent observation capabilities. Only with highly accurate sensor technology can vehicles aspire to have data regarding the immediate surroundings, the conditions prevailing on the road, and the distance of objects from itself. Parameters like speed, temperature, pressure, location, and proximity can today be detected with sensors, enabling recognition of obstacles and hazards on the roads. Ultrasonic sensors are now being used to develop assisted parking systems in cars. The sensors are strategically placed on car bumpers. Radars are another important class of sensors that are defining automation. Radars have evolved into advanced forms and are now referred to as ‘imaging radars.' Using imagine radars, cars can recognize features on the road and thus enable quick response to evade it. Radars make it possible for smart cars to detect potential collision chances and add to safety.Sensor Technology

LiDAR systems in vehicles function by emitting and detecting laser that bounces off physical objects to create 3D maps of the surroundings. Although expensive, these sensors have significant advantages over the use of cameras. Cameras capture a physical object as it is but do not possess the essential reliability. LiDAR, on the other hand, generates accurate and detailed renderings no matter whether it is day or night.

Even as vehicles adopt automation, the role of drivers does not get eliminated entirely. The driver still has to be alert enough to take up controls in certain situations for which a vehicle might not have optimized automation. Thus, automated vehicles need to ensure that drivers alert and responsive. Sensors and cameras in the interior of vehicles are going to enable this facility. Time-of-Flight (ToF) cameras are going to do the job of monitoring drivers in real-time. Still, under developmental phase, these cameras can also enable gesture recognition facilities in addition to the driver.

• Sensors Driving Fuel Efficiency

Sensors in vehicles can help achieve significant improvements in fuel efficiency through emission control mechanisms. Vehicles have transformed from mechanical machines to electronic ones with all the sensors connected to an electronic control unit. Mass flow air sensors ensure optimum usage of fuel by calculating volume and density of air used by the engine.  Engine speed sensors determine whether or not engines are functioning efficiently. Fuel consumption is also identified with the help of oxygen sensors placed in the exhaust pipes. The requirement of fuel change based on pressure present outside and inside the engine. Pressure sensors optimize fuel flow by measuring the variation of pressure levels. It is also essential to regulate the speed and the temperature at which fuel enters the system since its consistency varies depending on these parameters. Temperature sensors monitor and enable just the right temperature for fuel. Altogether, a host of sensors contribute to making the engine run smoothly and keep emissions minimized.

• Sensors in the Manufacturing Process

In the manufacturing process of vehicles, sensors play important roles to make production efficient and consistent. The automobile manufacturing industry is already making great progress in automating several operations in production plants to improve quality, cut costs, and improve the rate of production. Sensors at strategic places provide operators the control that is necessary to monitor whether the automated facilities are working smoothly or not. Robotic arms equipped with sensors can undertake a variety of operational as well as evaluation and assessment related ones. Quality control becomes extremely convenient by using sensors that help determine whether the parameters satisfy the acceptable standards.

• Sensors in controls

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are being included in many of the new models. These models have some degrees of automation in them, but the strategic role of a driver is indispensable with the technology available today. Thus, even as vehicles are headed towards self-functioning, manufacturers and designers are incorporating intelligent controls. These controls very advanced when compared with the conventional panels in vehicles because these work using sensor technology. The reason behind introducing sensor into driver controls can be attributed to the fact that these are much more sensitive and responsive when compared to mechanical switches. Touch sensing capabilities can register a physical touch on interfaces and thus allow users to give directions to vehicles quickly and effectively. These touch sensors will soon change displays, infotainment systems, and basic buttons in vehicles. Another advantage that these keys have is that they require minimum maintenance and are safe from excessive wear and tear.

The possibilities of innovative and valuable deployment of sensors in the automobiles and manufacturing facilities of the sector are immense. In the future, sensors will be the reason users will be able to enjoy error-free and safe self-driving experiences.