ADVANCED MOBILITY

Proliferation of Sensors in Next-Gen Automobiles Is Raising the Bar for Housing & Interconnect Technologies

Overview:

During recent years, the evolution of smarter automobiles is enabling Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), enhanced passenger environments, and laying a foundation for steady progress toward Autonomous Driving Systems (ADS).

A common factor across much of this innovation is the proliferation of various types of sensors throughout next-gen vehicles, which in-turn is driving the need for more sophisticated enabling technologies to house, protect and connect these expanding on-vehicle sensor networks.

This article provides an overview of the application trends and types of sensors being deployed, along with a drilldown look at the specific issues regarding sensor housing design and high-speed sensor connectivity.

Trends in On-Vehicle Sensor Applications

The largest factor in sensor proliferation is associated with advances in ADAS and ADS applications. Both of these arenas are increasingly including a combination of RADAR, LiDAR and camera sensors that are deployed all around the vehicle to provide a comprehensive, real-time 360-degree view of surrounding environments, as shown in Figure 1.

Whereas many earlier ADAS applications typically focused on a single sensor type, subsequent implementations often use inputs from both LiDAR and RADAR, and sometimes also cameras, to gain a more detailed and integrated picture of road conditions, hazards, other cars, pedestrians, etc.

In addition, cabin sensors and driver monitoring sensors using mm wave RADAR are increasingly playing a role to provide enhanced passenger safety and to augment driver assistance applications.
Figure 1 – ADS – ADAS Sensors

Sensor Deployment Challenges

As the number and types of sensors increase, the process of doing continuous sensor sweeps across them all and integrating the dynamically changing information becomes more challenging. The next steps in ADAS / ADS evolution will not be so much with regard to changes in the sensors themselves as it will be in the sheer amount of data that must be meshed together in real time.

Managing these escalating data flows will require interconnect solutions that support high-speed standards-based communications protocols such as Gigabit Ethernet and Car Area Network (CAN), while conforming to stringent automotive environmental requirements. The ongoing transition from CAN to Ethernet is also significantly raising the bar with regard to higher bandwidth and escalating data flows.

A second key challenge will be in the sensor housings, which need to not only physically protect the sensors but also to manage increasing thermal issues, provide shielding for electro-magnetic interference (EMI) issues, and mitigate vibration and shock issues.

Sensor Housing and Communications Technology Approaches

As shown in Figure 2, a holistic approach to design and production of robust sensor housings with integrated communications interfaces assures from-the-ground up optimization of key requirements. The RADAR enclosure in the example includes Ethernet and CAN molded interfaces with solderless press-fit interfaces, integrated EMI/RFI shielding and Radome structures, all contained within the main housing along with protective membrane for pressure equalization and UV glue potting for sealing.
Figure 2 – RADAR Housing Example with Integrated Communications Interfaces

Summary

As discussed, the number of sensors and variety of sensor types continues to increase with the introduction of new ADAS functionality and will accelerate even more to support transition to fully autonomous driving systems.

As shown in Figure 3, the SAE has defined various progressive levels of autonomous driving, ranging from providing alerts to manual driving up through partial automation at the ADAS level and on to full automation at the ADS level. Production systems currently are in the Level 2 to Level 2+ range, with some highly watched experiments in the Level 4 to 5 range.
Figure 3 – Progression of ADAS to ADS Technologies
In order to stay ahead of the curve on the journey from ADAS to ADS, automotive designers need to adopt holistic approaches to the housings and communications interfaces that enable on-vehicle sensor networks to deliver the performance required for real-time sensing, data communications, central processing and actuation of appropriate control functions.

Building on a long history of success as a trusted partner in the automotive industry, Interplex has taken the initiative to create a full set of enabling technologies, such as simulation and design optimization of thermal solution and Signal Integrity.

Interplex’s customization services, combined with vertical integration and volume manufacturing capabilities, can be readily adapted to applications-specific sensor deployment projects. This enables automakers to achieve greater product differentiation and manufacturing modularization to drive greater competitive advantage and speed time to market.

In addition, Interplex’s global footprint, combined with localized design, manufacturing and logistics resources provide the ability to engage closely with customers’ design teams from concept through design and prototyping, and into full volume production.

Additional Resources

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