To deliver on the promises of improved driver assistance, superior and safe infotainment, and autonomous driving, automobiles must become real-world sensors. The movement toward the car as a sensor is underway and expected to grow dramatically in the next decade.
The number of sensors is increasing
Already, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of sensors in automobiles. Cars today can carry accelerometers, surround-view cameras, lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, and multiple measurement sensors in the engine itself. These sensors provide data to feed features like adaptive cruise control and adaptive curve lighting and assisted parking.
Carmakers already face challenges integrating hardware and developing software to take advantage of the complex data and multitudinous data provided by that hardware. The problem will grow as the amount and sophistication of sensing technology increases.
As sensors improve and predictive systems appear in all walks of life, consumers expect their cars to do more. Vehicle sensors can “see” what humans can’t: different light spectrums, slight changes in velocity, radio waves, complete and simultaneous views of their surroundings. Drivers expect information to be available and used intelligently by vehicles to keep them safer and to provide greater comfort on the drive.
Integrating and interpreting the information
Sensors alone aren’t enough. To implement the features that consumers want and that innovative manufacturers aspire to, we must find better ways to integrate all of the information, and then analyze and interpret it in seconds or milliseconds in order to craft and deliver appropriate responses.
For example, when the yaw sensor indicates a problem, it needs to be corroborated by other data from cameras, lidar, and so on. That may also mean using data from the cloud, which is updated continuously through the connected car. All of that analysis happens within milliseconds, determining the car’s status. Then, the vehicle’s intelligent system makes and implements a potentially life-saving decision.
The car as sensor is one piece—a key piece—of the evolving smart automobile. Implementing the sensors and coordinating their operation is a monumental task for car-makers. This task will only grow in complexity as technology innovates and improves and customer expectations rise.