Scalable Electronics – the automakers choice

Those who have watched the movie Total Recall may recall seeing automobiles driven by robots. Passengers need to mention only the destination and sit back and enjoy the ride. The robot drives them to their destination. Well, those days may not be far off in reality. Automobile development is proceeding with technological advances that allow vehicles to control themselves to the extent of driving with minimal or no human assistance.

However, such developments cannot happen overnight. Then again, there is the question of people accepting such advancements. Therefore, automakers are continually announcing new developments in automated features in their upcoming models. For example, some vehicles are already equipped with automated monitoring and warning features. The plan is to introduce semi-autonomous models initially and then phase in the fully autonomous vehicles to be driven on the roads along with other traditional vehicles.

Such innovations in the auto industry involve advanced electronics for sensing, recognizing, deciding and acting upon changes in the road environment. While introducing new automated features, automakers have to face several factors that affect decisions about the electronic components and systems. Typically, these factors include performance, size, cost, power requirements, reliability, availability and support. In addition, automobile systems need to evolve from year to year, proceeding with car model changes and bringing in feature additions and improvements in the sensing technology. This requires the electronics to be scalable.

Scalable solutions offer the best options to carmakers. Scalable technological solutions help to keep the carmakers stay on track when offering new automated capabilities while balancing the requirements in the overall system design. To make self-driving cars a reality, auto manufacturers need improved electronic technologies for sensing, communications, sensor fusion, high-performance processing and many other functions. As car models change and improved sensors and additional features increase the data load, autonomous vehicle controls will have to be scalable, as this is a multi-year evolution.

Safety, convenience and efficiency are three things that all owners of vehicles look for. Increasing autonomous control in vehicles will help in eliminate several types of human errors that cause most accidents. Not only will that save lives, but also reduce injuries to a great extent and minimize property damage. Imagine cars driving themselves while chauffeuring children, the disabled and the elderly. People will be free to take up other activities while traveling. You can call your car to pick you up, without needing a human driver. Autonomous operation of vehicles will allow them to be more fuel-efficient, while more vehicles can travel safely together on roads. This will save energy and reduce costs on infrastructure.

All the initial automated feature offerings support safety as their top priority. These features are primarily designed to help drivers avoid making mistakes and are termed the Advanced Driver Assistance System or ADAS. As part of scalable electronics, ADAS features will be important elements when carmakers introduce fully autonomous vehicle operations in the future. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration definitions, this introduction will happen in five levels –

• Level 0 – No automation, driver in full control
• Level 1 – Function-specific automation, most of the current modern vehicles are here
• Level 2 – Combined function automation, active cruise control with lane keeping
• Level 3 – Limited self-driving automation, full self-driving but driver can take over control
• Level 4 – Full self-driving automation, driver not required.