Rapid advances in intelligent automotive systems were showcased during the first European edition of the MEMS Executive Congress. Such systems can tell whether a child is in the street and enable the car to avoid impact. MEMS can ensure that a driver is not inebriated before getting behind the wheel; this is already a reality in France, and would seem to beat the pants off the old-fashioned Breathalyzer.
MEMS can make a car smarter in how it utilizes and conserves energy and power through energy harvesting. It can make a car easier to drive, through sensor-enabled steering that senses the curvature of the road and accounts for torque and speed. (Now that would certainly come in handy on California's Pacific Coast Highway or the Autobahn.) MEMS make drivers safer and smarter with anti-roller stability, airbags, and tire-pressure monitors. And after experiencing the keynote by Markus Buhlmann, "The MEMS-Enabled Automobile -- An Inside Look at Audi's Vorsprung durch Technik," MEMS can also make driving a car a hell of a lot of fun.
Automotive panelists at MEMS Executive Congress Europe held in Zurich, Switzerland. From left: Bernhard Schmid of Continental, Marc Osajda of Freescale Semiconductor, Hannu Laatikainen of VTI Technologies, and Richard Dixon of IHS-iSuppli.
The MEMS automotive panel at the Congress was moderated by Robert Bosch's MEMS automotive sensor guru, Jiri Marek. Featured panelists represented top players in the industry: Richard Dixon of IHS iSuppli; Hannu Laatikainen of VTI; Marc Osajda of Freescale Semiconductor; and Bernhard Schmid of Continental Teves. All these guys are well versed in the challenges and opportunities facing the MEMS automotive industry.
Dixon described how the automotive market recovered very quickly after a dip in 2008 to 2009, mainly driven by safety mandates. There has been a steady 10 percent growth rate (primarily from pressure sensors, airbags, gyros, and flow sensors) since then, and Dixon expects this trajectory to continue for the next five years. Safety mandates are driving mature markets forward, while there is just plain growth in automotive MEMS in emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets, as their middle classes grow and demand for automotive increases. Applications like driver-assist will become more prevalent in the near future, further driving demand for MEMS in this sector.
It's pretty amazing to see what auto makers have on their product roadmaps in terms of leveraging MEMS sensor technology. The idea of thinking about a vehicle in human terms, and consequently considering its function in terms of human senses is quite an eye opener and a bit hard to wrap your head around. I suppose once you do, the possibilities for the "smart" car are endless. A little scary perhaps, but so is it all innovation on such a grand scale.
I agree. It is interesting to see the automotive industry opening up such a wide range of innovation in electronics. In the past it seemed the innovative developments in electronics were in defense, aerospace, and consumer electronics. Now it looks like automotive is one of the leading industries for innovation.
MEMS can ensure that a driver is not inebriated before getting behind the wheel. He should be able to unlock the car so that he can sit inside and should not be allowed to start the car. This will really reduce the problems with drinken driving and this is really an example of how technology can enhance quality of life.
Now a day's most of the automobiles are coming in a smarter way by equipping with all sorts of intelligent and automated system. Complete automation of dashboards and MPFI fuel injection, GPRS based tracking etc are some of the advanced features. Now a day's some of the high end cars are providing wifi and Bluetooth connectivity also.
thanks everyone for your comments about smart cars enabled by MEMS - one other thing I forgot to mention was the use of MEMS displays inside the car - personally I am concerned it might lead to more road accidents (counter intuititve to the "safety safety safety" mantra that so many in automotive talk about); but i do know that there a bunch of folks in the field (and in automotive) who are looking to put pico-projectors (enabled by MEMS) inside cars in lieu of dashboards...what are your thoughts on this? I am enjoying the conversations - thank you so much. best - Karen
Karen: Great article. I suppose we could make the case that MEMS could detract from safety in some applications, but that would be more than offset by the lives that have been saved by MEMS-based electronic stability control systems. NHTSA estimates that between 8,000 and 10,000 lives per years are saved by electronic stability control.
Thanks for the nice note, Charles! Yes, you are right - the "good" in MEMS in automotive greatly outweighs any downsides in terms of saving lives (just think of how many more have been saved by airbags, too!). thank you! Karen
I guess this is a case of - just because a technology can do something, doesn't mean that it should. Driver distraction is one of the fastest growing areas of concern for automotive manufacturers, legislators and law enforcement. It will be a tricky needle to thread for the manufacturers.
@Scott - yes I agree - and the more I see Americans (I didn't see ANYONE doing this in Europe) talking/texting while driving I have more and more concerns about safety and automotive. I hope that MEMS and other technologies can play a role in ensuring that automobiles become safer! A combination of active and passive safety devices I think are the answer...
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