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The Role of Sensor Technologies to Shape Future Automobiles

Auto Tech Outlook | Thursday, July 28, 2022

Modern automobiles must now have sensors as a required component.

FREMONT, CA: Sensors are now an integral component of any modern automotive design, providing a variety of functions. They play a crucial role in assisting automakers in bringing safer, more fuel-efficient, and more pleasant models to market. Over time, sensors will also enable higher levels of vehicle automation to the benefit of the industry.

Intelligent observation

Automobiles must process a vast array of parameter data to achieve complete observability, including velocity, current, pressure, temperature, positioning, proximity detection, and gesture recognition. Additionally, cognitive observability is necessary for an automobile to operate autonomously and process data. Ultrasonic sensors and time-of-flight (ToF) cameras are now beginning to be incorporated in automobiles for proximity detection and gesture recognition, which have made significant advancements in recent years.

Ultrasonic sensors

As vehicle automation advances, we are not only witnessing the application of new technology to the automotive industry for the first time but also the adaptation of existing automotive technologies to the unique requirements that autonomous driving will impose. Ultrasonic sensors are commonly installed in vehicle bumpers for parking assistance systems. Such sensors are now only expected to function at speeds below 10 km/h and cannot measure small distances with 100 percent precision. In an autonomous vehicle, however, these sensors might be used with radar, cameras, and other sensing technologies to measure distance.

Gesture recognition

While ultrasonic sensor technology is utilized to study the exterior environment, ToF cameras focus on the vehicle's interior. As the shift to autonomous driving will be gradual, drivers must be able to switch from automated mode to manual mode in certain circumstances.

Currently, via their Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), cars are only partially autonomous; nonetheless, human intervention may be necessary at any time. We anticipate that the sector will increase its level of automation in the following years, but the driver will still be required to take charge in certain situations (e.g., when the car is in city centers). This will not alter for a lengthy length of time. Until then, a vehicle must be capable of alerting its driver. Therefore, monitoring the driver's position and motions in real-time is essential. ToF technology is already in use, although in its infancy, to alert drivers when they lose focus and cause their car to drift toward the road's edge. It also enables the execution of various functions based on gesture recognition, such as using hand swipes to boost the radio volume or to answer an incoming phone call. ToF's potential goes far beyond these activities and will play a crucial role in developing more advanced driver automation. ToF cameras will be able to map a driver's entire upper body in 3D, allowing for the determination of whether the driver's head is facing forward and whether their hands are on the wheel.

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