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Passive MEMS, actuators to automate car safety

Posted: 01 Jul 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS  actuator  car safety system  automotive 

The next generation of car automation safety will be the marriage of passive MEMS sensors with active actuators in safety systems to prevent accidents, experts said.

"Death rates in auto accidents have drastically lowered in recent years by virtue of safer car construction," said Steve Nelson, Freescale Semiconductor's director of global automotive marketing. "But now that active systems are being implemented, how much control will the consumer allow the car to take over?"

According to panellists at a Freescale event, most drivers want to retain control of their vehicle despite the success of current traction control systems that compensate for certain driver-errors during skids.

As a result, fully autonomous navigation systems won't appear anytime soon for two reasons: drivers need to know that they are in control and unsolved methods for transferring control back to the driver after an incident.

The short-term solution, according to Freescale's Demetre Kondylis, is zero-tolerance for common failure modes that could defeat mandated redundancy in automotive systems. This can be accomplished by embracing the convergence of passive sensing and active actuation of responses in future safety systems designed to prevent accidents.

"We must surpass systems like those that use MEMS sensors to detect crash and deploy airbags," said Kondylis. "For instance, radar can be used to anticipate a crash and respond by taking countermeasures that either prevent or at least mitigate collisions."

This convergence of passive and active safety system, according to panellists, will employ multiple MEMS sensors, including accelerometers, gyroscopes and pressure sensors.

"We are now establishing differentiated implementations of military technologies that can be made more affordable for civilian systems," said Kondylis. One possibility is "using IR systems that are not only cheaper, but which work even in bad weather compared to military phased-array radars," he said. However, much computing power will be needed to field these converged auto systems.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

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