Emerging automotive in-cabin sensing solutions for safety and comfort

Article By : Linda Liu

There is still room for improvement regarding the comfort and safety of the occupants in a car.

With growing technological advancements in the automotive industry, it is now possible to develop innovative solutions that can potentially enhance the safety and comfort of a car. Automotive interior systems — like airbags or seat belts — have been revolutionized over the last decades, which has led to significant improvements in occupant safety. However, there is still room for improvement regarding the comfort and safety of the occupants. Automotive interior systems support safety for the driver or passengers and play a significant role in comfort, which is an important factor for customer satisfaction and loyalty, especially for premium cars.

In-cabin sensing solutions that improve safety and comfort

Various internal systems are already available to support safety and comfort for drivers and passengers alike. Some examples include:

Automated parking assistance

Automatic parallel/perpendicular parking without a driver’s input can be considered a revolutionary in-cabin sensing solution. The assistance has hardware circuits mounted on printed circuit boards and connected with actuators and sensors. Automated parking facilitates the parallel/perpendicular parking maneuver. It does not require much effort to execute, making it particularly suitable for use in city driving situations in which available parking spaces are very limited.

Automated parallel/perpendicular parking is beneficial not only for drivers but also for vehicle manufacturers, as their vehicles do not require traditional parking spaces and can be used in all sorts of areas. In contrast, traditionally, only premium segment cars could offer this feature.

Automated driving

Automated driving is a long-term vision that aims to increase road safety by removing the driver from the control loop. Automated driving is one of the most challenging in-cabin sensing developments because it has to account for various situations and has to be robust enough to function correctly in any situation. This in-cabin technology is still a faraway vision, and several technological/societal obstacles have to be overcome before automated driving can become a reality. Still, significant progress has been made already: Automated driving is already a reality in several demonstration cars, which illustrates the potential of this technology.

Automated parking assistance and automated driving are two examples of new in-cabin sensing solutions that can improve traffic safety. These systems can increase situational awareness of the driver and therefore allow them to focus more on overtaking maneuvers, which is a potentially dangerous situation in congested traffic. Automated parking assist and automated driving are also beneficial for road safety because they do not require the driver to steer, allowing vehicles to be equipped with lane-departure warning or forward-collision warning systems.

In-car temperature control

Automated heating and ventilation control can be used to improve comfort for the driver and passengers. These systems are commonly used in other areas of application like air conditioning. Automated heating and ventilation control offers significant advantages because it maintains a comfortable interior temperature without manual adjustment by the driver/driver’s passenger.

Automation is beneficial from a safety perspective, as cooling or heating of the cabin can be performed even when driving without direct human interaction. Automated heating and ventilation control supports a driver’s comfort by providing a constant and comfortable temperature in all seasons, whereby this comfort is also particularly attractive to premium car drivers.

ToF technology

Time of flight (ToF) is a new technology used to identify objects from within a vehicle. ToF sensors are used to measure the time it takes for an electromagnetic pulse or signal to leave a transmitter and hit its object. They reliably detect people and other objects even in the presence of sunlight, fog, snow, glare from headlights, and other light sources.

ToF technology uses a transmitter that emits an electromagnetic signal to send pulses toward objects. It measures time using two different methods: ultrasonic and laser. The technology has the potential to improve driver and passenger safety. It can detect people and objects in all lighting conditions, even when they are obstructed by other vehicles on the road, and can be installed behind the rearview mirror, on side mirrors, or on the windshield.

Impedance sensing

Impedance sensing is a strong and reliable technique of detecting hands on the steering wheel and the quality of a driver’s grip. In addition, the technique detects and shows the location of the steering wheel and a driver’s stress level.

The vehicle impedance-sensing design uses an advanced circuit topology called “source follower” control. The voltage supply controller draws most of its current from the batteries rather than at a separate power terminal. This topology offers several performance advantages over conventional “inverted buck-boost” controllers used in earlier electrical vehicles, such as lower losses, quieter operation, and, most importantly, safety.

Car camera bus technology

A car camera bus system is an integrated vehicle and infrastructure technology designed to improve traffic flow. It consists of a network of small cameras connected to a digital video recorder (DVR) mounted in the back of each bus. The DVRs capture images from the cameras and then display them on monitors inside the buses for use by the drivers.

The DVRs are also connected to antennas on top of each bus, which transmit and receive data from similarly equipped infrastructure systems — in this case, traffic lights that can identify buses coming at an intersection and adjust to green in time for the bus to pass through. The data is sent back and forth between the intersection control systems via fiber optic cables.

The cameras, which are triggered by motion before they begin filming, collect images from inside and outside of the vehicle during operation. These include images of passengers boarding and alighting the vehicle and traffic intersections, buildings, and other structures along streets that buses travel on. The images collected by the cameras are analyzed by a computer system that identifies and tracks objects of interest, such as passengers or vehicles. The system then compares these images with footage from earlier trips to identify people who have boarded the bus at an earlier stop.

How DMS help in minimizing road accidents

In the last decades, car crash deaths in Europe have been declining at a slower rate than expected from EU progress on highway safety. There is reason to believe that this underperformance has partly been caused by increased driver distraction and impaired driving. While some distraction countermeasures have been implemented, such as enforcement measures, enforcement does not solve driver distraction or driver impairment issues. So driver-monitoring systems (DMS) have been developed as a new driver distraction countermeasure and are now also enabled with driver-impairment detection capability.

A DMS is a driver-distraction countermeasure that helps to reduce driver distraction, which still contributes to many crashes even though driver distraction has been recognized as the largest concern by large majorities of drivers and road-safety experts. Another DMS benefit is driver-impairment detection. Impaired drivers are a big threat, even though they make up only a small fraction of the driver population. The risk of an impaired driver causing crashes is very high.

Reports show that some systems are more capable than others in detecting driver distraction or driver impairment. A number of suppliers have DMS that would be valuable additions to vehicles, as DMS are also expected to detect other driver-behavior issues such as driver fatigue, driver aggressiveness, and driver inattention.

Conclusion

The automobile industry is embracing cutting-edge in-cabin sensing solutions to enhance the safety and comfort of drivers and passengers. However, more innovation is needed to improve user experience and customized comfort. Regulators across the world are on track to enhance user safety and comfort. Automated packing assistance, automated driving, in-care temperature control, time of flight, impedance sensing, and car camera bus technology are some of the major in-cabin sensing solutions that will improve safety and comfort in vehicles.

This article was originally published on EEWeb.

Linda Liu is the overseas marketing manager for MKTPCB, a leading PCB manufacturer that offers high-quality PCB products and services. Since 2012, she has established “first of its kind” industry-changing and transformational businesses initiatives that increased revenue growth, brand exposure, and market expansion for MKTPCB. Linda graduated from Western University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

 

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