Embedded Systems in Automobiles- A Boon to Automobile Industry

As always been said “Necessity is the mother of invention “….Today Embedded systems are inventions that have made the world to think and bring out different innovations and developments in the field of automobiles.  Embedded System is basically a system of hardware and software designed for control and access of data. As a system it includes a controller as the brain. This controller chip can be a PIC microcontroller, 8051 controller, ASICs, ARM, or any type of FPGAToday embedded systems applications are popular and their development has become a boon to automobile industry. Applications in the form of home appliances, for automobiles, entertainments, consumer electronics, medical and telecommunication etc. are every day in the mode of development.

                                                           Embedded System in a Car

                                                                                                      Embedded Systems in Automobiles - Current Trends

Embedded Systems in Automobiles- A Boon to Automobile Industry

Mechanical systems in automobiles are largely replaced by electronic systems.  Today Automobile industry is making great use of embedded systems. Ranging from wiper controls to complex anti-lock brake controls and air bags, embedded systems have gained the overall control of recent automobiles. The automobiles that are built around using microcontrollers, digital signal processors or using both the processors are commonly called as Electronic Control Units. Today many BMW cars and luxury vehicles come up with large number of embedded controllers. The first embedded system based automobiles Volkswagen came in the year 1968.

Some of the current trends of embedded systems in automobiles include airbag controllers, navigation systems, satellite radio, adaptive cruise control, drive by wire, heads up displays etc.

1. Anti-Lock Braking System

Anti-lock brake system is used in automobiles to avoid the vehicles from skidding especially in a slippery road. This system allows the wheels of the vehicle to have better contact with the road. This system basically consists of sensors to track the speed, valves, pump and a controller.

                                                   Anti-Lock Brake System

                                                                                                      Embedded Systems in Automobiles - Anti-lock Brake System

Parts of Anti-lock brake System in Automobiles

  • Speed Sensors: Helps in knowing the deceleration and acceleration of a vehicle.
  • Valves: At the brake line of the brakes in the vehicle there are valves. The valves are placed in 3 positions.  At the first position, the valve is kept open to pass the pressure from the master cylinder to the brake. In the second position, the valve is kept in the closed position, so that more pressure does not reach and the driver does not need to pull the brake pedal harder. And finally in the position three, the pressure from the brake is released through this valve.
  • Pump: Gives back the pressure to the brake when valve is released.
  • Controller: Known as Controller Anti-lock Brake monitors the sensors and the valves.

Working of Anti-lock brake system in Automobiles

There is an electronic control unit in the system which monitors the movement of the wheel. If a wheel in the automobiles goes slow, the speed sensors will tell the valves to reduce pressure to the brake and thereby the wheel turns faster. On the other hand, if the wheel goes faster, the pressure to the wheel is increased thereby slowing down the wheel.  

2. Satellite Radio

Satellite radio is a radio service broadcast from satellites to automobiles. It is available by subscription and it is commercial free.

3. Navigation Systems

Navigation systems in automobiles are gaining wide popularity. These systems are made up with different functions that can help a common man. These systems get the signals coming from the satellites and allow knowing the position and direction of the vehicle. This system basically consists of:

  • GPS receiver and antenna.
  • Sensor
  • Screen
  • Map database
  • Navigation computer

Global Positioning System (GPS) Antenna and receiver is used to get the information from the satellites and to know the position of the vehicle. Sensor used is basically of two types. They are speed and direction sensors. Speed Sensors allows knowing the travelling distance of the vehicle. While the direction sensor keeps on detecting the direction of vehicle. This system uses a screen for display purposes. Computer helps in checking the information from antenna, sensors with the map database and displays on the screen with the help of a circuitry.

                                              Navigation system in a car

                                                                                     Embedded Systems in Automobiles - Navigation System in a car

4. Drive By Wire

This system helps to replace the mechanical systems in automobiles with electronic systems using actuators and HMI (human machine interfaces).  Components of the automobiles like belts, steering column, pumps, coolers, vacuum servos and master cylinders, hoses, intermediate shafts are eliminated.

5. Adaptive Cruise Control

Embedded System in Automobiles has made the driverless car a big reality. “Google Driverless car is an example”. Adaptive cruise control is now widely used in automobiles to make a minimum distance between vehicles on high traffic highways and in areas of busy traffic. When the traffic congestion goes down, adaptive cruise control helps to change the speed of the vehicle using the braking system.


                                                                                        Embedded Systems in Automobiles - Adaptive Cruise Control

Each automobiles having the adaptive cruise control will be having radar as a transceiver fixed on it to know the distance and speed of the vehicles in the path. The computer associated with the ACC unit helps to control brake and throttle of the automobiles.

6. Airbag control system in Automobiles

Airbags are generally designed to inflate in the cases of frontal impacts in automobiles.  When the collision process happens, an electric current is sent to the ignition system. This electric current keeps on heating the filament and thereby ignites the capsule which in turn  ignites the pellets and generate the gas. When the gas expands, the air bags also get inflated. All this happens within a time limit of 0.1 sec.


                                                                                          Embedded Systems in Automobiles - Airbag Control System

Major Industries That Help Automobile Industry

Some of the major industries that help to develop these current trends in  automobile industry are:

  1. Atmel:  Provides different controllers like ARM, 8051. Most of the body electronics, security, safety and automotive products are manufactured by them.
  2. Texas Instruments: They provide different controllers, automotive control chips and DSPs to automobile industry.
  3. Xilinx: Provides different CPLDs, FPGAs, and other application related cores for development of navigation systems, adaptive cruise control etc.

Silicon Providers, NxP, Analog devices, NEC, Renesas etc. are some other automobile industry.

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