Safety of Automated Driving Through Sensor Cleaning Technologies

Auto Tech Outlook | Monday, August 08, 2022

Like any other vehicle on the road, an autonomous vehicle (AV) must be kept clean. The issue has less to do with aesthetics and more with safety—obstructed sensors could render active safety systems ineffective and, in the worst-case scenario, cause a collision.

FREMONT, CA: Approximately 1.35 million individuals are killed annually in traffic accidents. As the prevalence of autonomous vehicles (AV) increases, so will the need for effective road safety interventions, such as improved road infrastructure and advanced sensor cleaning systems.

Smart vehicles rely on sensor systems to collect external data that activate automated and autonomous activities. However, outside sensors are susceptible to external conditions such as dust, mud, insects, and road debris. Therefore, it is not sufficient to keep sensors clean before vehicle movement. Because autonomous vehicles rely on various sensors to function, they must remain pristine while in travel. The objective is to avoid instances where a sensor may become hidden during a turn or other maneuver, thereby preventing accidents.

Here, sensor cleaning methods play an important role.

New safety requirements and the deployment of autonomous technology in each vehicle class are driving the rapid increase in the number of sensors in automobiles. As automobiles go toward greater automation, the significance of clean sensors will only increase. The objective is to prepare the path for future transportation while assuring the safety of both people and vehicles.

Industry participants provide four distinct types of sensor cleaning solutions. These technologies include wiper and jet technology, protective materials, passive/active aerodynamics, and advanced experimental technologies, such as ultrasonic cleaning and anti-fogging.

Convergence of sensor cleaning systems

It is unsustainable to rely on a single technology to satisfy the sensor cleaning demands of a whole AV. Consequently, combining two or more technologies will make cleaning mobile sensors more sustainable and efficient.

Integrating wiper and jet technologies with protective materials for Level 1 or 2 autonomous vehicles will dramatically enhance cleaning performance. In addition, using protective materials in conjunction with passive/active aerodynamics systems in Level 3 AV will result in a protective and preventative solution. This can minimize the vehicle's total mass.

Similarly, an appropriate mix of aerodynamics and sophisticated oil-free scroll technology will produce preventative, reactive, and highly effective results in a Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles. Thus, this will become the most effective cleaning solution for AV equipment.

As the market for driverless vehicles is expected to reach a tipping point by 2025, several ADAS and autonomous vehicle developers are examining novel automotive sensor cleaning solutions. In addition, the global market for automotive sensors is projected to reach 23,6 billion units by 2034.

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