The future of mobility is being explained in different forms by manufacturers, consulting agencies and industry leaders, but they all revolve around the megatrends of connected, shared, electric and autonomous. Overlapping these trends will be the aspect of safety. In fact, safety and related systems will play a key role in achieving all the four aforementioned major trends.
We touched upon the theme of automotive electronics in the previous edition of the magazine, and it was evident from the stories there that the ever-increasing penetration of electronics in automotive space has been driven to a large extent by safety systems. Earlier, safety systems in the automotive industry were predominantly focussed towards the four-wheeler passenger vehicle segment, with passive systems playing the fundamental role. However, in the present age of technology penetration across all segments of the automotive industry, the role of safety systems has extended to two-wheelers as well as commercial vehicles.
PASSIVE, ACTIVE SAFETY SYSTEMS
The primary goal of mobility is to ensure people and goods are securely transferred from one location to another. Safety systems need to address the requirements of passengers inside a vehicle as well as that of people outside such as pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists.
The more prominent form of safety systems that is still largely prevalent is passive systems, which only react to playing a post-incident role in maintaining safety. These include seat belts, airbags, emergency calling and helmets, which are still being offered as optional features in many markets across the globe. On the bright side, a number of passive safety systems are being offered as a standard fitment across trim levels, which will anyways become regulatory requirements in times to come.
The other type of safety systems are the active kind, which makes use of continuous road, vehicle and driver information to take decisions on the vehicle so as to prevent an incident from taking place at all. These would include ABS, Electronic Stability Control, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Driver Monitoring System, Blind Spot Detection, Head-Up Display (HUD) and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). All these active safety systems require the backing of electronics at various degrees, so as to make them adequately perform their roles. Additionally, a number of these active safety technologies are being integrated into high-powered motorcycles as well as commercial vehicles.
The new-age active safety systems leverage a variety of sensors to gather information about the vehicle, driver and environment, and then transfer that data to electronic control units (ECU) that analyse and process it. The final step is to take corrective or preventive action to avoid any untoward situation, with the help of actuators to provide inputs. Information is collected through sensor components such as infra-red, radar, Lidar and cameras. Since these systems are critical in nature, there is a requirement for them to be connected to each other at all times in high-speed, and be error-free.
FUTURE OF SAFETY TOWARDS AUTONOMY
The next step in the journey of safety systems is that of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which have experienced tremendous development over the past few years. ADAS is the first step towards automating the driving systems of a vehicle. It is the stepping stone, which is combined with vehicle connectivity to enable autonomous driving functions of automobiles. All the safety systems in the automotive industry eventually point towards one common objective – fully-automated driving, which is an epitome of the development of vehicles themselves.
However, there is a path to be taken on this journey towards autonomous vehicles, with five levels of autonomy being prescribed globally by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). These levels of ADAS towards full-autonomy are the standard being observed by the global automotive industry, which helps in providing a level playing field for technology companies across the world. While Level 5 autonomous driving technologies will not be seen at commercial grades of adoption anytime soon, Levels 3 and 4 will be featured more prominently across vehicle segments.
In addition, the direction towards automated driving also requires vehicles to become highly-connected. The connectivity needs to take place within the vehicle across all its internal systems, with other vehicles, infrastructure as well as other road users, if possible. A mature level of vehicle connectivity will be the foundation towards a robust autonomous vehicle future, where information is seamlessly shared between various automobile stakeholders.
Safety features like TPMS, vehicle and driver monitoring, can provide important information to fleet owners on the status of their vehicles, and provide inputs to make changes for improved efficiency and reduced downtimes. This is a typical example of the way in which safety systems can be used to provide data that can then enable autonomous driving, as well as ensure it is performing optimally.
In the journey towards increased active safety systems, ADAS and autonomous driving, vehicle manufacturers and technology suppliers need to carry out humongous amounts of testing and validation. We must not forget that these safety systems need to be free of any type of glitch, since the life of occupants and road users are at stake. While the required aggregate of testing cannot be realistically carried out physically, there is a strong need to verify and validate these systems digitally through simulations.
Furthermore, there is an industry requirement to ensure the development of safety systems for the automotive industry achieves regulatory standards in the area of software engineering. The industry is required to adhere to ISO 26262 and SAE J3061 automotive certification frameworks, which focus on functional safety and cybersecurity, while developing automotive software. This is where the importance of developing proper embedded software with regards to safety comes into play, where the software is scrutinised for errors at the code-level itself, in order to be error-free.
The burden of safety systems has conclusively moved from providing post-incident assistance towards completely eradicating any unsafe road situation. In parallel, automotive safety systems also have the additional task of ensuring that other motorists and road-users are provided a safe environment to ply on. All these systems can only perform their roles appropriately with the support of high-end electronics technologies backing them from the period of development, right up to production and regular operations. The next few stories talk about the new-age developments taking place in the arena of safety assistance systems.
TEXT: Naveen Arul