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Evolution of automotive EMC testing

Posted: 11 Mar 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electromagnetic compatibility  testing  Intelligent Transport Systems  autonomous vehicles  power amplifiers 

The automotive industry is undergoing a continuing evolution, both in the development of new technologies and the testing of those. Customers are demanding more and more features that increase safety, improve performance and enhance their overall driving experience. When combined with the drive towards vehicle automation and vehicle electrification, the number of new and advanced technologies integrated into vehicles has increased greatly.

As the race for superior connectivity and services between vehicle manufacturers ensues, there is a need for a better understanding of the technical issues ahead and the development of new test methods to validate critical systems. Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing is an intrinsic part of this process.

Automotive EMC testing assesses the robustness of vehicle systems to electromagnetic (EM) disturbances and the impact of system malfunctions on vehicle functionality and safety. Typical devices with the ability to cause disturbances include laptops and mobile phones, walkie-talkies and radio transmitters.

Changing challenges
Wireless technologies and the associated benefits that they bring are an ever-increasing and indispensable part of modern society. Services such as Digital Radio and TV (DAB and DVB-T), mobile services including GSM, 3G, 4G, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth and GNSS are now commonplace in most executive and prestige vehicles. With demand increasing and implementation costs reducing, these technologies are becoming available across the majority of vehicles irrespective of market sector. For example, Bluetooth is common in all but the most basic entry level vehicles and DAB/DVB-T are optional on most mid-range vehicles. Integrated GSM, 3G, 4G, 5G and WiFi technologies will be available in the next wave of models from the major high-end vehicle manufacturers, and along with Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), are set to deliver the much awaited 'connected car'.

Modern prestige vehicles have over 20 integrated antennas which cover a host of analogue and digital wireless links, and that number is due to rise. In fact, if all of the antennas integrated into a mid-range prestige vehicle were re-installed as separate rod antennas on the roof, the vehicle would look more like a porcupine and less like a motor vehicle.

This rapid increase in the level of wireless technology and functionality within vehicles will allow a multitude of new services to be realised quickly, however, manufacturers will need to form robust through-life EMC test strategies to account for the increased number of software upgrades required to stay ahead of the game.

The EMC implications of new technologies for the connected and autonomous car are driving significant changes in the way that we test vehicles, along with the facilities and equipment we use.

One of the biggest challenges facing EMC testing is driverless cars and the significant shift from wired devices towards the use of wireless technology as part of the emerging Intelligent Transport System (ITS) environment. With the rise in wireless technology comes an increase in antennas and their desired performance. Apart from vehicle control systems, which are usually wired, autonomy of the future will rely heavily on external communications between the vehicle and other vehicles on the road and between the vehicle and the infrastructure. These so-called V2x communications are at the foundation of ITS where their reach and reliability depend on the quality and RF protection of the antenna.

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