Electronics In Cars

Besides music systems and LCD screens, is there any significant role that electronics plays when it comes to cars? That was a question asked by a reader, and here we attempt to answer it. -- Abhijit Paul Choudhury

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Auto-sensing lights
If wipers can start off automatically when it rains, why not your headlights when it gets dark? Now they do. Many high-end cars in India come with auto-sensing lighting features too. Here, the headlamps of the car glow automatically when it starts getting dark. The fundamental behind it is the light-dependent resistor (LDR) or optical sensors used in the circuit of the headlamp. So as the light intensity decreases to reach a certain value, the circuit triggers the headlights to turn on.

Safety and security systems
Today, cars are packed with many security and safety features. There are several layers of security that such systems would provide, such as:
1. Security against theft. By means of anti-theft devices, user-recognition electronics and immobilisers
2. Security against car misbehaviour. By means of tyre pressure monitors, temperature sensors, and anti-skid and anti-lock devices
3. Personnel safety in case of collisions. By means of crash sensors, airbag actuators and warning systems
4. Security against accidents and mishaps. By means of collision-avoidance systems (under evolution)
Desmond Tan, senior marketing manager at Fujitsu Microelectronics, explains, “Embedded electronics enhances the security of the car in areas of vehicle tracking. GPS, for instance, when used in the simplest form, provides the user with the ability to navigate from point to point. Building on such simple applications, consider the use of digital GPS technology in fleet management, where each vehicle can be tracked easily. This provides the authorities an added means to track the location of the vehicle.”

[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Growing use of microcontrollers”]Microcontrollers were primarily used in automobiles for the fuel injection system. But, later these found application in many other areas.
Ramesh M., senior engineer-field service, Lucas TVS, explains, “For optimal combustion of fuel in the engine, fuel quantity and timing of injection are determined with the help of various sensors for throttle position, camshaft/crankshaft position, airflow, engine RPM, rail pressure, fuel pressure, load value, air temperature, engine temperature, oxygen, vehicle speed and AC system refrigerant.”
He adds, “To process these parameters, microcontrollers are incorporated as part of the fuel injection system in the terminology ECU (electronic control unit) by Bosch and ECM (engine control module) by Delphi.”
Microcontrollers also find use in vehicle control modules like electronic power steering systems, adaptive cruise control systems, airbag control systems, electronic stability control systems and anti-lock braking systems. Then, there is body control unit. Its main role is to take care of the seating control unit, wiper control, power windows, central locking and door controls in cars.[/stextbox] Tan adds, “Electronics can also help to reduce the ever increasing problem of vehicular theft. Consider the implementation of such GPS units as part of the insurance coverage plan. In the first instance of car loss or an accident, the insurance company will be able to pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle and thus enlist the authorities for help.”

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