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New Automotive SensorsA Review

William J. Fleming, Life Senior Member, IEEE
Invited Paper

AbstractThis paper focuses on the primary automotive sensor

technologies used today and their related system applications. This
paper describes new automotive sensors that measure position,
pressure, torque, exhaust temperature, angular rate, engine oil
quality, exible fuel composition, long-range distance, short-range
distance, and ambient gas concentrations. In addition, new features are described for sensors that measure linear acceleration,
exhaust oxygen, comfort/convenience factors, and night vision.
New automotive system applications are described for sensors that
measure speed/timing, mass air ow, and occupant safety/security.
Index TermsAutomotive sensor applications, automotive
sensors, comprehensive sensor update, review paper, road vehicle
transducers, sensor technology.


Global automotive sensor market volumes are approximately three
times larger than the values for the North American market given
Normalized to 2002, when the average sensor cost was U.S. $6.30.


ENSORS are dened as devices that transduce physical

quantities such as pressure or acceleration into electrical
signals that serve as inputs for control systems [1], [2]. Engineering literature does not consistently differentiate between the
terms, sensors and transducers. Whether devices are called
sensors or transducers often depends on the eld of application
in which they are used. In the automotive eld, these devices are
more commonly referred to as sensors.
Sensors are essential components of automotive electronic
control systems. Automotive sensors must satisfy a difcult
balance between accuracy, robustness, manufacturability, interchangeability, and low cost. Because of the key role sensors
play in automotive systems, many advances have occurred
since a prior review paper [1] was published. For example, the
present paper describes 21 new types of automotive sensors,
and 25 new features available in automotive sensors. In addition, 14 new automotive system applications for sensors are
described. In total, therefore, 60 new developments related to
automotive sensors are reviewed.
The objective of this paper is to cover the most signicant
sensors used in present-day automotive applications. However,
notwithstanding the breadth of this paper, some automotive sensors were unavoidably excluded. Decisions on which sensors to

Manuscript received April 19, 2008; revised July 08, 2008; accepted July 31,
2008. Current version published October 31, 2008. The associate editor coordinating the review of this paper and approving it for publication was Dr. John
The author is retired from TRW Automotive, Washington, MI 48094 USA
Color versions of one or more of the gures in this paper are available online
Digital Object Identier 10.1109/JSEN.2008.2006452

exclude were based on the judgment of the author and the availability of information.1
There are three areas of automotive systems application
for sensors, namely: powertrain, chassis, and body. Automotive control functions and associated systems for the three
areas of application were previously shown in Figs. 24 and
Tables IIIV in [1]. Several new applications are reviewed in
this paper.
Estimates for the automotive sensor market in 2007 and a
forecast for 2013 were derived from data in [3] and are given
in Table I. Current luxury cars have over 100 sensors per vehicle, signicantly more than the average number of 40 given in
Table I. This table illustrates the dramatic growth in demand for
automotive sensors.
1Excluded automotive sensors include the following.
-Brake pedal position/force sensor (force detected via a uid pressure sensor).
-Passive tire pressure sensor (no battery required) using hoop antennas to
couple RF power into pressure sensors embedded in the sidewalls of rotating
-Fiber-optic engine in-cylinder pressure sensor based on light reection off a
-Side door-mounted pressure sensor (which provides wide-area side-impact
crash sensing).
-Multiple degree-of-freedom inertial-sensor modules for chassis monitoring
that include x-y acceleration plus  -angular rate sensing elements.
-Fuel level detection using: (a) Hall effect sensors to measure oat-arm angular position or (b) transit times of ultrasonic pulses reected off the fuel-air
surface interface.
-Vehicle heading detection using magnetometer (compass) direction sensors.
-Window anti-pinch/auto-reverse sensingobstacles are detected by:
(a) pressure-sensitive conductive window-seal strips, or (b) electric motor load
monitoring using Hall effect sensors in the motors.
Since these sensors do not currently enjoy widespread production, and are
based on generally straightforward operating principles, they were excluded.

1530-437X/$25.00 2008 IEEE



Current driving factors that account for the increasing utilization of automotive sensors are given below.
Needs for sensors in powertrain systems are driven by:
legislation (e.g., lower emissions, improved fuel economy,
and onboard diagnostic requirements), best-in-class driveability, along with the introduction of new types of alternative power sources.
Chassis systems needs for sensors are driven by safety,
weight reduction, multiplex compatibility, and legislation
(e.g., collision avoidance stability systems and tire pressure monitoring).
Body systems needs for sensors are driven by safety (e.g.,
advanced airbags, rollover and side crash protection), comfort, and convenience.
In each applicationpowertrain, chassis and body
Moores Law is a dominant driving factor. Moores Law
states that electronics capabilities double approximately
every 18 months. Automotive electronics directly benet and exhibit corresponding increases in computing
power/memory. These increases provide greater systems
demand for feedback signals, which in turn drives continually growing needs for high-performance automotive
In a prior review paper [1], a total of 40, 27, and 40 sensors
were listed in Tables IIIV for powertrain, chassis, and body
automotive systems applications. This total of 107 sensors was
representative of the major applications for sensors used in automobiles seven years ago. As mentioned above, 60 new developments related to automotive sensors are reviewed here.
A. Smart Sensor Operation
A new feature, common to many types of automotive sensors,
is smart sensor technology. This consists of electronics signal
processing integrated inside the sensor which provides:
Automatic gain control (e.g., to compensate for air gap
Conversion of internally detected time-varying waveforms
into precise square-wave or digital protocol output signals.
Dynamic threshold sensing which maintains zero-offset
and 50% duty cycle in a square-wave output signal.
Pulse-width-modulated and digital protocol output signals
are clamped at specied upper and lower limits, e.g., at 0
and 5 Vdc.
Ratiometric output signals are provided where output signals are normalized to the level of the supply voltage.
Electronic interface with communication bus networks.
Operation using two wires in place of a three-wire connection (one wire carries a digital protocol output signal
superimposed on a dc power-supply loop current, and the
other wire connects to the reference side of the bus network).
Smart sensor features are notably incorporated into speed/
timing, pressure, and inertial acceleration/angular rate automotive sensors.


B. Speed/Timing Sensors
Speed/timing sensors are used to measure engine crankshaft/camshaft speeds and angles for control of spark timing
and fuel injection timing. The sensors are also used for control
of transmission input and output shaft speeds for electronically
controlled gear shifting. In addition, high-resolution crankshaft
speed sensors detect engine misre, as evidenced by cylinder
misre-induced modulations of crankshaft speed. Another
major application is wheel speed measurement of each vehicle
wheel to provide inputs to antilock brake, traction control, and
vehicle stability systems.
There have been many improvements to speed/timing sensors, beginning with the addition of the aforementioned smart
sensor features. A good example of a sensor with integrated
smart sensor electronics is a giant magnetoresistive (GMR)
speed/timing sensor described in [4]. This sensor, including
electronics, is packaged as a
Advances in the areas of packaging and processing have contributed to the development of greater accuracy, lower cost, and
improved robustness. Further discussion of packaging and processing is beyond the scope of this paper.
Variable reluctance, Hall-effect, anisotropic magneto-resistive (AMR) and GMR types of speed/timing sensors were reviewed in [1]. New applications of speed/timing sensors include
the following.
1) Crankshaft Reverse-Rotation Detection: During repeated
restarting of an engine in a mild hybrid electric vehicle, idle-stop
engine control systems must continue to comply with emissions
requirements. Excessive exhaust emissions occur as a result of
time lags between the point when the engine throttle is rst
opened compared with the time when the engine electronic control unit (ECU) is able to determine the true crank angle and
apply spark. Time lags are the result of crankshaft reverse rotations which frequently occur when an engine is shut off at the
beginning of the stopping event. Speed/timing sensors with dual
inline detector elements provide the required direction information. The phase angle of the sensor output signal, derived from
the difference of voltage waveforms between the two detector
elements, determines the direction of crankshaft rotation [5].
2) Vibration Interference Suppression: During restarting of
an idle-stop engine in a mild hybrid electric vehicle, a false engine speed signal can be generated. Vibrations in the enginestopping event can create periodic variations in the air gap of the
speed/timing sensor between the sensor and the tone wheel. This
creates changes in magnetic eld such that the sensor may inadvertently generate an output signal based on vibration, not on rotation of the tone wheel. Because vibrations produce changes in
the magnetic eld, the automatic gain adjustment in the sensors
signal processor may generate excessively large gain. In this
case, the voltage-crossing thresholds become too high, and the
sensors timing signal will be in error. A logic determining circuit in a sensors signal processor detects the onset of inappropriately high levels of sensor signal gain, and it then sends a
correction signal which reinitializes the voltage-crossing thresholds back to their correct levels [6].
3) Wheel Speed Sensor New Features: Vehicle wheel speed
sensors have added four important new features.


a) Improved serviceability: Wheel speed sensors are

mounted in wheel hub housings, and operate in a severe environment that includes roadway curb impacts and pot-hole-induced shocks. Consequently, these sensors are associated
with a majority of antilock brake and stability system repair
problems. Wheel speed sensors are made more serviceable
today, no longer requiring disassembly of major components of
the wheel hub/bearing components for replacement. Wherever
possible, sensors today are installed in an accessible portion
of the wheel-hub housing where their replacement does not
require hub disassembly [7].
b) Magnetically poled encoder rings: Magnetically
poled encoder-ring technology has rapidly replaced toothed
tone wheels. Tone wheels required the use of a larger sensor
because the sensor had to include a relatively large back-bias
magnet. Magnetically poled encoder rings (with repeating
northsouth pole patterns) produce their own magnetic eld,
enabling smaller magnet-free eld-detection speed sensors.
Sharply dened north/south poles in encoder rings produce a
more desirable square-wave-like output and also yield better
accuracy than tone wheels. Another key advantage is that as
compared to tone wheels, encoder rings permit operation at
double the range of air gaps between the sensor and the encoder
ring, thereby facilitating relaxed installation tolerances and
improved reliability [8].
c) Wheel rotation direction detection: Wheel rotation direction serves as an input signal for the hill holder function
of an electronic parking brake system. Hill holder systems automatically apply the parking brake as soon as the car comes
to a stop (as detected by the cessation of wheel rotation), or
for reverse wheel rotation when the accelerator pedal is not
depressed. The parking brake is electromechanically engaged
and then released when the driver depresses the accelerator (detected by a pedal position sensor). The amount of brake force
needed to hold a vehicle in place on a hill is determined using the
dc-response of an accelerometer (functioning as an inclination
sensor). Direction of wheel rotation is detected using closely
spaced inline magnetic eld sensing elements mounted in the
head of the wheel speed sensor. Comparison of the phase angles of the leading elements speed signal, with that of a trailing
element, determines direction of wheel rotation [9].
d) Self-monitored failure detection functions: An essential
self-monitored failure function is the air gap between the wheel
speed sensor and its encoder ring. Due to the severe on-wheel
environment in which it operates, damaging air gap displacements can occur in the wheel speed sensor. Air gap is monitored
by measuring magnetic eld amplitudes detected by the sensing
element in the sensor. Typically, three air gap operating-range
conditions are monitored: i) normal air gaps (normal signal amplitude); ii) reserve range (nearly out-of-operating range); and
iii) out of operating limit (loss of signal). Additional self-monitored failure functions include detection of short circuits, and
intermittent open circuits.
Signals corresponding to: the self-monitored functions, the
wheel rotation direction, and the wheel speed signalsare
combined and are transmitted as a digital protocol signal
from the wheel speed sensors back to an ECU on a two-wire
interface. The digital protocol signals are superimposed on the


Fig. 1. Inductively coupled sensor used to measure throttle plate position [11].

dc power-supply wire, and the second wire connects to the

reference side of the bus network. Digital protocols transmit
the operating status information via pulse-width-modulation
[10] or Manchester codes.
C. Position Sensors
Automotive applications of position sensors include:
Engine throttle plate angle.
Chassis-height link-bar angle.
Fuel level (oat arm angle).
Steering-wheel angle.
Potentiometric, Hall-effect, AMR, and GMR types of position sensors were reviewed in [1]. Three new types of position
sensors are described here.
1) Inductively Coupled Position Sensor: This sensor measures angular position using a multilobed single-turn conductor
coil on a rotor attached to the partthrottle plate, accelerator
pedal, or chassis-height link barwhose angle is to be determined. An inductively coupled throttle-plate-position sensor is
shown in Fig. 1. The multilobed coil on the rotor is connected
to the throttle plate and is suspended next to the receive coils
which consist of three or more planar coils intertwined together.
The receive coils are mounted on a xed housing. A single-loop
excitation coil, also mounted on the xed housing, encircles the
receive coils and provides ac-excitation. The excitation coil generates a MHz-frequency RF eld. The excitation coils RF eld
inductively couples (like a transformer) to circumferential portions of the rotor multilobed coil, and induces current in the
rotors conductor.
Current owing in the radial portions of the rotor conductor
lobes generates a secondary magnetic eld pattern that rotates
with the rotor and inductively couples to the underlying receive
coils. Each of the receive coils couples with the rotor magnetic
eld and inductively generates its own (phase-shifted) voltage
waveform as a function of rotor angle. The angle of the measured part (e.g., a throttle plate) is determined via signal processing of the magnitudes, signs, and gradients of the individually phase-shifted receive-coil voltages [11], [12].
Inductively coupled position sensors offer the following
Noncontact operation.
No magnets are required.



Fig. 2. Integrated magnetic concentrator rotary position Hall-effect sensor used

to measure throttle plate, accelerator pedal, or chassis-height link-bar angle.
(a) Basic conguration [14]. (b) IMC layer below magnet alters the magnetic
eld directions. The silicon substrate supports the IMC layer and also includes
the Hall-effect sensors [13].

Low cost due to printed circuit board construction and nonresonant circuit operation.
Facilitates relaxed assembly alignment tolerances.
Design exibility allows the sensor to be made into either
angular or linear position-sensing congurations.
2) Integrated Magnetic Concentrator (IMC) Rotary Position
Hall-Effect Sensor: This sensor measures angular position
using a single bar magnet attached to the rotating part (throttle
plate, accelerator pedal, or chassis-height link bar) whose angle
is to be determined. As seen in Fig. 2(a), the sensor is mounted
on a xed surface underneath a magnet attached to a rotating
part. The sensor consists of the following components.
a) High-permeability IMC ferromagnetic layer: As illustrated in Fig. 2(b), an IMC layer (which is disk shaped) alters
the direction of, otherwise, the parallel-directed magnetic eld
components). The IMC changes
the -eld directions to perpendicular-directed eld
directions. The
-eld directions are altered as a result of a
boundary condition; namely, at the transition interface between
low-permeability air and the high-permeability IMC layer, the
into the IMC. Bemagnetic eld enters perpendicularly as
cause Hall-effect sensors respond to both the magnitude and direction of eld, the use of an IMC layer to redirect the magnetic
-directions largely eliminates direceld into perpendicular
tion variability. This allows Hall-effect sensing elements in the
silicon substrate below the IMC layer to respond solely to mag-eld components [13], [14].
nitudes of the
b) Hall-effect sensing elements: Hall-effect sensing elements are mounted in the silicon substrate, in four quadrant positions, below the IMC layer. Hall sensing elements detect magmagnet eld.
nitudes of the - and -components of the
As the part (whose angle is to be measured) rotates with its bar
magnet, pairs of Hall-effect sensing elements detect and genand
signal voltage waveforms
erate quadrature
c) Redundant, dual, embedded digital signal processors
signals are in phase quadrature
(DSPs): The
and are processed to determine a resolved angle

Fig. 3. Basic conguration of the dual-magnet sensor used to measure steeringwheel angle [4].

DSPs are embedded in the silicon substrate along with the Halleffect sensing elements. Dual-DSP isolated dies are used for
redundancy to insure reliability [15].
The IMC rotary position sensor provides the following
Noncontact, easy-to-install, end-of-shaft mounting.
(ex Compact size, small outline package,
cluding the magnet).
Insensitivity to variations of magnetic eld strength, temperature, and air gap.
Absolute 360 angular position measurement.
bit (1024 step), and angular reso Angular accuracy
bit (4096 step).
3) Dual-Magnet Steering-Wheel Angle Sensor: A combined
optical/potentiometric type of steering-wheel angle sensor was
described in [1]. A new dual-magnet type of steering-wheel
angle sensor has been developed for automotive applications
[4]. Automotive applications for the steering-wheel angle
sensor include: vehicle electronic stability control, steerable
headlights, parking assist, and road navigation. The basic
conguration of the sensor is shown in Fig. 3.
Measurement of steering-wheel angle is difcult because
over the four or more turns of the steering wheel, i.e., over
1440 or more of rotation, the angle of rotation must be determined within 1 accuracy. The sensor in Fig. 3 uses two
bar magnets, each attached to a free-running pinion gear.
The pinion gears engage the large drive gear attached to the
steering-wheel column. Adjacent to each pinion gear/rotating
magnet, is a GMR magnetic eld sensing element, mounted in
a stationary sensor housing [16], [17].
The drive gear in Fig. 3 has 42 teeth, whereas one pinion gear
has 14 teeth and the other pinion gear has 15 teeth. Thus, for
each turn of the drive gear, the pinion gears and their embedded
magnets will each turn about three times. Because of the difference in the number of pinion teeth, the two pinion gears rotate
through 15 turns before their magnets realign. Therefore, as the
steering wheel turns through ve revolutions, one of the pinion


gears goes through 15 turns, and the two pinions realign with
each other one time.
The two GMR sensing elements detect the angles of the
pinion gears/magnets. The angles of each pinion gear exhibit
a unique relationship to the large-gear steering-wheel angle.
Steering-wheel angle is computed from the angular relationships between the pinion gear angles with respect to the large
gear angle [16].
Signal processing methods used to enhance the accuracy of
the steering-wheel angle measurement include [4]:
Sigma-delta A/D converters.
Digital ltering.
Coordinate rotation digital computing (CORDIC) angle
Data ow partitioning.
D. Pressure Sensors
Automotive applications of pressure sensors include:
Engine manifold absolute pressure.
Ambient barometric pressure.
Evaporative fuel system leak pressure.
Brake uid pressure.
Chassis adaptive suspension hydraulic pressure.
Air conditioner compressor pressure.
Common-rail fuel injection pressure.
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) piezoresistor, capacitive module, polysilicon-on-steel, and ber-optic sensors
types of pressure sensors were reviewed in [1]. New types of
pressure sensors are as follows.
1) MEMS Surface Mount Package Sensor: This sensor
has integrated electronics and its sensing diaphragm is bulk
micromachined in silicon, with an exposed area of about 1
1 mm. Four piezoresistive sensing elements are diffused
into the diaphragm to detect stresses created by applied pressure. The sensor is designed for the measurement of ambient
barometric pressure for engine control. The pressure sensor is
one of the rst to be offered in a standardized small-footprint
surface-mount device package. This reduces the amount of
circuit-board area taken up by the sensor and it also makes the
sensor more compatible with standard electronics assembly
Key performance features of the sensor include [18]:
Operating range: 60 to 120 kPa.
Accuracy, 1%.
Operating temperature, 40 C to 130 C.
, surface mount package.
Small size,
2) Integrated Multiparameter Tire Pressure Sensor: The
United States government issued a safety standard requiring
tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensors on each wheel
of each new car as of September 1, 2007 [19]. The standard
was enacted by an Act of the U.S. Congress in reaction to sport
utility vehicle (SUV) rollover-crash fatalities, and an associated
tire recall. The standard is unique to the U.S. and has not been
adopted by other countries. The standard requires that TPMS
sensors, within 20 min, detect a 25% pressure-deation in any
or all vehicle tires. This includes the situation where all four
tires deate uniformly due to seasonal falling temperatures.
The most common type of TPMS system is the direct valvemounted battery-powered type, seen in Fig. 4. The TPMS sensor


Fig. 4. A MEMS multiparameter sensor is used in a direct/active type of tire

pressure monitoring system. The sensor is valve-mounted inside the tire rim and
is powered by a lithium battery.

is attached to the valve and is positioned in a protective location

inside the tire rim. This sensor: a) uses wheel motion-detection
power-saver circuits that extend battery life; b) uses ultra-lowcurrent-draw integrated circuits that also extend battery life; and
c) uses MEMS multiparameterpressure, temperature and accelerationsensing elements to minimize weight [20]. The RF
receiver in the vehicle that receives signals from remote keyless entry (RKE) systems doubles its functionality by also receiving TPMS signals. The RKE and TPMS systems operate on
the same 315-MHz frequency (United States), while utilizing
different signal modulations.
Integrated on a single substrate in the TPMS sensor are the
following devices: a) MEMS diaphragm-type capacitive pressure sensing element; b) semiconductor temperature sensing
element; c) MEMS acceleration sensing element; d) voltage
sensing element; and e) signal processor and RF transmitter.
The sensor, including sensing elements and electronics, has
, made possible by the use
dimensions of
of MEMS technology [21]. The operating functions of the each
sensing element are as follows.
The pressure sensing element provides the desired tire
pressure measurement.
The temperature sensing element allows ideal-gas-law
based corrections of tire pressure measurements to a
standard temperature, and it also detects over-temperature
conditions to provide electronics shutdown protection.
The acceleration sensing element activates a battery
power-saver mode when wheel movement stops. In addition, the detected sequence of gravity-induced maxima
and minima output signals as a wheel begins to rotate is
used to identify right-from-left tire location [22].
To distinguish front-from-rear wheels, differences in received RF signal strengths from front and rear TPMS transmitters are monitored. Because rear-wheel transmitters are
more distant from the RF receiver, rear wheels are identied by their reduced signal strengths.
The voltage-sensing element monitors the TPMS battery
As indicated in Fig. 4, an integral lithium battery typically
powers automotive tire pressure sensors. Various attempts to use
piezoelectric bimorphs (and a tuned vibrating mass attached inside the tire) for energy harvesting, to power tire pressure sensors, have been investigated [23], [24]. Aside from the difculty



Fig. 6. A ceramic-element capacitive sensor inside the sensor housing detects

the exhaust differential backpressure across an exhaust particulate lter [29].

Fig. 5. Piezoelectric pressure sensor integrated into a diesel engine glow plug.
(a) Essential elements of sensor [27]. (b) Physical appearance of sensor [28].

of maintaining bonding of the bimorph assembly on a constantly

exing tire, the generated power is considered to be insufcient
to energize both the sensor and transmitter [25]. This approach
is still under development.
3) In-Cylinder Combustion Piezoelectric Pressure Sensor:
In-cylinder pressure measurements are used in engine combustion control systems. Through the use of a cylinder pressure
feedback signal, engine control systems can better regulate
cylinder fuel injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation, and
turbocharger operation. For example, the control system may
act to reduce combustion temperatures in cylinders in order to
lower NOx emissions [26].
A fundamental problem that has impeded development of this
sensor is that engine designers never wish to add more access
holes in the cylinder head to accommodate combustion sensors,
while existing spark-plug/glow-plug-integrated sensors up to
now have not been practical. A new type of pressure sensor has
been integrated into a diesel engine glow plug. The in-cylinder
pressure sensor utilizes a piezoelectric ceramic sensing element
mounted inside the glow plug housing.
During combustion, increasing cylinder pressure applies
force on the glow plug. The heating element in the glow
plug functions as a pressure transfer pin. It applies the forces
due to cylinder pressure onto a piezoelectric pressure sensor
diaphragm inside the sensor housing. In this way, as seen in
Fig. 5(a), forces due to cylinder pressure are passed along a
stress transfer path and onto the piezoelectric element [27],
[28]. Sensor-integrated signal processing electronics provide
a real-time cylinder pressure output signal. Separate sensors
monitor combustion pressures in each cylinder.
4) Diesel Exhaust Particulate-Trap Backpressure Sensor:
Sensors monitor buildup of backpressure in particulate lter
traps used in diesel engine exhaust emissions cleanup systems.
Differential-pressure-tap upstream and downstream tubes from
the trap connect to the sensor housing ports seen in Fig. 6.
As particulates in diesel exhaust accumulate in a particulate
lter trap, backpressure across the trap increases. When the

backpressure reaches a predetermined level, as detected by

the sensor, a signal is sent to the ECU to add more fuel to the
engine. The resulting rich airfuel mixture causes an upstream
oxidation catalyst to heat the exhaust. The increased exhaust
heat then burns up the carbon particulates in the particulate
lter, therein regenerating the lter by converting particulates
The exhaust backpressure sensor consists of a ceramic capacitive-type pressure sensor that detects the differential pressure
across its diaphragm. The sensor has high accuracy and is deranges, along with
signed to perform with narrow pressure
high overpressure capacity. The sensors differential-pressure
operating range is typically 0-to-34 kPa, with an overpressure capability of 690 kPa [29].
E. Temperature Sensors
Operating temperature ranges for these sensors are as follows:
For temperature applications in the range of 50 C to
150 C, silicon IC sensors are used.
Thermistor-type sensors operate in various ranges as high
as 1000 C.
To measure very high temperatures over 1000 C, RTDtype sensors are commonly used.
Automotive applications of temperature sensors include:
Measurement of air and uids using silicon IC sensors.
Engine coolant, fuel, brake, and steering uid levels are
commonly measured using thermistors (via differences
in uid immersion/nonimmersion heat-transfer temperatures).
Very high temperatures are measured in catalytic converters mounted in the exhaust system.
Resistive temperature detectors (RTDs), thermistors, and silicon IC temperature sensors were reviewed in [1]. High-temperature RTD sensors are used in three new types of exhaust
emissions cleanup systems, namely:
Diesel particulate-trap exhaust-temperature control during
the trap regeneration process [29].
Spark-ignition engine control of exhaust temperature to
enhance NOx trap-catalyst performance [30].
Urea-injection diesel engine emissions control system regulation of exhaust temperature (to optimize performances



of a particulate catalyst and an NOx selective-catalytic-reduction converter) [31].

In one study, three types of high-temperature sensors were
compared for use in exhaust monitoring applications. Temperature measurement accuracy was required to be stable over an
exhaust gas measuring range of 40 C to 1000 C, and after
500 h of aging at 950 C. This study showed that RTDs were superior to thermocouples or thermistors for the demanding high
temperature exhaust monitoring applications [32].
F. Mass Air Flow Sensors
Mass air ow sensors measure steady state and transient mass
ow of air into an engine. An engines combustion process is
controlled by mixing the correct ratio of fuel to the mass, not
volume, ow of intake air. Accurate mass air ow measurement
permits precise metering of fuel into an engine for control of vehicle emissions, economy, performance and driveability. Mass
air ow sensors were briey described in [1]. A more comprehensive discussion of the sensors is presented here. There are
three methods of measuring automotive mass air ow.
1) Engine Speed/Air Density: This method rst determines
volume, not mass, ow of air by treating the engine as an air
pump. Volume air ow is computed as a product of cylinder
displacement, times engine speed, times engine volumetric efciency. Volumetric efciency calibrations provide corrections
for variations of engine air-pumping characteristics due to effects of: valve timing, EGR rate, engine wear, etc. To determine
mass ow, the ideal gas law is used. Measurements of intake air
pressure and temperature are made, and the ideal gas law is used
to calculate the mass density of the air. In summary, volume air
ow, times mass air density, equals mass air ow.
Measurements of intake air pressure and temperature are
made using a two-in-one sensor that combines two sensing
elements to measure manifold air absolute pressure and temperature [33]. A thermistor measures temperature and a MEMS
sensing element measures pressure.
2) Mass Air Flow Direct Measurement: Direct-measurement
mass air ow sensors are based on thermal heat-loss principles.
An exposed heated resistive element plus a companion, compensating, insulated element, are mounted inside the engines
throttle body and are exposed to the air ow. This sensor measures mass air ow into an engine based on convective heat
losses due to air ow across the two sensing elements.
The exposed heated element experiences convective-ow
heat loss, while the insulated element does not. The difference
in electrical heating power required to maintain both elements
at the same temperature determines mass air ow. The greater
the air ow, the greater the difference between current draws to
the exposed and insulated resistive elements, therein providing
the mass air ow measurement. This sensor cannot detect ow
reversals in the intake air ow, and therefore does not measure
true mass ow under these conditions.
3) True Mass Air Flow Measurement: Under certain engine operating conditionse.g., open throttle at low engine
speedpulsating reversals of air ow occur. Because the ow
sensor in Section IV-F2 does not detect reverse ow, it will in
this case provide erroneous ow measurements.
To detect ow reversal, another conguration of the mass ow
sensor is used. This sensor utilizes a heat source and separate

Fig. 7. Engine true mass air ow sensor. (a) Measuring principle [34]. (b) Physical appearance of sensor (cover removed) [35].

upstream and downstream thermal detection elementsall fabricated on a micromachined low-thermal-mass diaphragm. The
amount that the downstream sensing element is hotter or colder
than the upstream sensing element indicates both the direction
of airow and its mass ow rate [34]. A true mass ow sensor
and its operating principle are seen in Fig. 7.
Both types of air ow sensors in Sections IV-F2 and IV-F3
include means to minimize effects of contamination. In the upstream side of the sensors air ow channel, a channel segment
is structured so that it creates air ow vortices. The vortices
act on the owing air to separate out potentially contaminating
liquid droplets and solid particles entrained in the intake air
ow. Contaminants are deposited on the channel segment walls
before they reach the measuring element, thereby protecting the
sensing element from the effects of contamination [36].
To take advantage of the best performance features of each
method, vehicle manufacturers often combine different methods
of air ow measurement. For example, mass airow methods
in Sections IV-F2 or IV-F3 provide more accurate steady-state
air ow measurement, and one of these methods is combined
with the engine speed-air density method in Section IV-F1,
which provides superior transient response [37]. The combined
methods, therefore, provide both steady-state accuracy and fast
transient response.



Fig. 8. Magnetic encoder-ring/Hall-effect sensing-element sensor used to measure steering-wheel torque [38]. The encoder ring and the stator rings are connected
via the sleeve to opposite ends of the torsion bar, and twist with respect to each other when steering-wheel torque is applied. The twist angle of the encoder ring
with respect to the stator rings is detected and it provides the torque signal.

G. Torque Sensors
Various congurations of torsion-bar twist-angle types of
torque sensors were described in [1]. Twist angle due to the
applied torque acting on a torsion bar is detected using one
of the following approaches: a) potentiometrically (requiring
sliding contacts), or by assorted noncontact means including; b)
optics with varying apertures; c) magnetics with displaceable
air gaps; or d) electrical eddy currents with variable shaded
Additionally, magnetoelastic detection methods can be used
on solid (noncompliant) shafts. In this case, torque is measured
by noncontact means using: a) ac-excitation to detect torsional
stress-induced changes in the magnetic permeability of a shaft
surface layer or b) sensing the effects due to torque-induced
rotation of permanently magnetized domains in surface layers of
a shaft. (As the domains rotate, they self generate a torque signal
as a result of angular-dependent coupling of the magnetization
to external eld detectorsno ac-excitation required).
Applications of torque sensors of automotive interest include:
Steering-wheel torque for electric power steering (EPS).
Driveshaft (transmission-out) torque.
Clutchshaft (engine-out) torque.
Because of the more rapid development of EPS systems and
the less demanding operating requirements associated with the
steering column location, steering-wheel torque sensors are further developed than driveline torque sensors. New types of EPS
torque sensors are described.
1) Magnetic Encoder-Ring/Hall-Effect Sensing Element
Steering Wheel Torque Sensor: This EPS torque sensor, illustrated in Fig. 8, consists [38], [39] of:
Two co-rotating stator rings, each with 12 intermeshed ferromagnetic teeth are both connected via a sleeve to the
input end of a torsion bar that is inline with the steeringwheel column.
A magnetically poled encoder-ring rotor has 12 alternating
northsouth poles. The encoder ring is connected to the

output end of the inline torsion bar. The encoder ring is

concentrically located below the stator rings.
When torque is applied to the steering wheel, the torsion
bar experiences twist and the encoder ring is angularly displaced with respect to the stator rings.
An output torque signal is generated by ux created across
the stator teeth. If the north and south magnetic poles on
the encoder-ring are aligned with stator teeth, ux crossing
between teeth from one stator to the other (and the torque
signal) is maximized. If magnet poles straddle the stator
teeth, the output signal is minimized (because ux is conned within stator teeth and does not cross between teeth
from one stator to the other).
For example, when steering-wheel torque twists the encoder ring in one direction, the teeth in one of the stator
rings may be positioned more over the encoders north
poles and these stator teeth will collect ux. The teeth of
the other stator will be positioned more over the encoders
south poles and these teeth will return ux. The collected
ux is detected by the Hall-effect sensing elements shown
in Fig. 8.
In summarythe greater the steering-wheel torque, the
greater the torsion bar twist angle, the greater the displacement
of encoder magnetic poles with respect to stator teeth, the
greater the ux crossing between teeth from one stator to
the other, the greater the collected ux, and the greater the
Hall-effect sensor torque output signal.
Performance features of the sensor include:
Accommodates a family of designs that operate with torsion bar full-range twist angles of: 8-, 4-, and 1 .
(The stiffest 1 torsion-bar sensor requires three times
more encoder-poles/stator-teeth than the 8 design).
All three torque sensor designs have the same compact
dimensions of 37.5-mm outer diameter and 8-mm width.
Electronic signal-processing components are mounted in
a xed housing and are not required to rotate with the
steering-wheel torsion bar.


2) Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) Torque Sensor: SAW

torque sensors can be used for driveline and steering-wheel
torque measurement applications. Utilization of SAW technology enables wireless, batteryless, noncontacting measurement of the mechanical strains due to shaft torque. SAW torque
sensors utilize the inuence of strain on the propagation velocity of acoustic waves [40], [41]. The main elements in SAW
torque sensors are:
a) Coupler: A xed-mount signal coupler with transceiver
electronics in one example provides a 433-MHz RF interrogation signal. The RF signal wirelessly transmits energy to very low power-consumption SAW transducer elements on the rotating torque shaft, and it wirelessly receives return signals.
b) SAW transducer: The SAW transducer elements consist
of interdigital electrodes and reective gratings that are
fabricated on a quartz substrate which, in turn, is attached
to a at surface, machined on the shaft in which torque is
c) SAW sensing element alignment: The SAW sensing elements are aligned with the principal lines of tensile and
compressive torsional strain in the shaft. These lines act
along 45 angles with respect to the longitudinal axis of
the shaft.
d) Sensor operation: The SAW interdigital transducers are
piezoelectric. In one example, 433-MHz pulsed-voltage
sine waves piezoelectrically generate 433-MHz acoustic
waves, which are transmitted along the quartz surface.
These waves propagate in straight paths along the shafts
principle lines of strain and are reected off gratings and
travel back to the transducers that detect their return.
e) Output signal: Shaft torque creates strains that physically
change the spacing between transducers and reective
gratings, altering the resonant frequencies in SAW propagation-controlled resonator circuits.
f) Differential measurement: A differential measurement of
resonant frequencies from the two 45 oriented SAW
resonators provides the torque measurement. Interfering
effects of temperature and shaft bending are cancelled out
in the differential measurement.
g) Signal transmission: RF signals corresponding to the frequency-shifted resonant responses of the SAW sensing elements are transmitted back to the signal coupler, which
includes signal processing and provides the torque signal.
Key performance features of the sensor include:
SAW sensors operate wirelessly and no battery is required
to power the shaft-mounted sensing elements.
SAW sensors are small and lightweight.
The high resolution and sensitivity of the SAW sensor allows torque to be measured on a solid shaft, i.e., no torsion
bar is required.
3) Magnetoelastic Torque Sensor: Magnetoelastic torque
sensors, like SAW sensors, do not require a torsion bar, no
battery is required to power the shaft-mounted sensing element (and no excitation is required to transmit power to the
shaft), and they utilize noncontact operation. Magnetoelastic
torque sensors can measure torque on a solid shaft because


they respond to shaft stress (instead of strain). Note. The

aforementioned ac-excitation type of magnetoelastic torque
sensor is used primarily for instrumentation purposes and is
not discussed here.
The magnetized-domain type of magnetoelastic sensor has
shown potential for automotive sensor applications and is described. An annular surface region on a shaft with magnetoelastic properties is permanently magnetized such that magnetic
domains are circumferentially oriented around the outer surface
of the shaft.
If no torque is applied to the shaft, the circumferential magnetization eld is unaffected and there is no change (no rotation) of the magnetic domains. In accordance with the magnetoelastic effect, applied shaft torque causes the magnetic domains to rotate from their initial circumferential directions towards axial directions. The rotation of domains creates an axial
eld component along the direction of the shafts longitudinal
axis. This axial magnetic eld is detected using a dc ux-gate
magnetic modulator circuit (which exhibits ultra stable operation). As shaft torque is increased, magnetic domains rotate further, strengths of the axial eld components increase, and the
ux-gate circuit detects a stronger magnetic eld, therein providing the torque measurement signal [42]. Since the axial eld
reverses direction when applied torque reverses direction, the
sensor output signal automatically reverses sign when applied
torque is reversed.
One difculty with this sensor is that its calibration is dependent on reproducibility of the magnetoelastic properties of the
shaft (sleeve, coating material, or the shaft itself). Magnetoelastic properties of materials are not speciable or controlled
by metal manufacturers. Consequently, when large numbers of
magnetoelastic torque sensors are manufactured, it is difcult
to maintain part-to-part variation of torque sensor calibrations
within automotive interchangeability variation limits, which are
typically 1%.
There has been recent progress in development of the magnetized-domain type of magnetoelastic torque sensor [43].
Zero-carbon Ni-Fe maraging steel shaft material with special
heat treating is usedsleeves or coatings are not required. The
shaft material itself functions as a magnetized surface layer
[44]. To achieve interchangeability, these sensors are currently
hand-sorted to insure uniform calibrations. Both driveshaft
and clutchshaft torque sensors for F1 race cars are currently
supplied [43].
If this sensor is to satisfy high-volume production automotive requirements, obstacles that must be overcome include: a)
nding a source of magnetoelastic steel which is lower-cost than
maraging steel; b) obtaining magnetic eld detectors that are
lower cost than ux-gate detectors; and c) developing better
control of the zero-torque calibration point.

H. Linear Acceleration Inertial Sensors

Although the operating principles of acceleration sensors
have remained the same [45], there have been many improvements, beginning with the incorporation of the smart sensor
features described in Section IV-A, along with advances in


packaging and processing that have yielded smaller, more accurate, lower cost, more robust sensors. Automotive applications
for linear acceleration sensors include:
Vehicle stability and chassis adaptive suspension systems.
Vehicle frontal, side, and rollover crash sensing.
Engine knock detection (using at-response acceleration
sensors and bandpass frequency ltering).
Piezoresistive MEMS, capacitive MEMS, resonant-beam
MEMS and piezoelectric types of linear acceleration inertial
sensors were reviewed in [1]. New automotive applications
and features for acceleration sensors, not previously described,
include the following.
1) Chassis Acceleration: Chassis acceleration sensors today
typically offer two-axis ( - ) acceleration measurements and
come in surface mount packages as small as
This minimizes the amount of circuit-board area taken up by
the sensor.
One chassis acceleration sensor utilizes a seismic-mass that is
micromachined in silicon into the form of an elliptical-shaped
plate, with tether springs integral to its body [46]. The sensor
utilizes a lateral-to-substrate-displacement operating conguration. Acceleration-induced deections of the seismic mass are
detected by changes in capacitance due to lateral displacements
between comb electrodes. Chassis acceleration sensors have the
following features:
Integrated minimal-overshoot, low-pass frequency
(fourth-order Bessel) ltering of the output signal.
Built-in self-monitoring failure detection and self-calibration.
Accuracy, 2% of full scale (over the entire range of acceleration, temperature, and sensor-to-sensor calibration variation).
Resolution, 10-mg.
Electrically selectable acceleration detection ranges.
Wide measurement bandwidth, dc-to-400 Hz.
2) Vehicle Crash Detection: Modern vehicles generally include ve acceleration crash sensors, namely: a) a right-front
and a left-front satellite crash sensor (to trigger front airbags
in offset frontal crashes); b) a right-side and a left-side satellite
crash sensor (to trigger side airbags and curtain airbags); and
c) a central sang sensor mounted in the passenger compartment (for high reliability crash detection). Furthermore, because
three-row-seat vans and SUVs have longer lateral-coverage curtain bags, these vehicles require two additional side satellite
crash sensors, mounted in their rear-quarter panels.
A typical satellite crash sensor utilizes a lateral-to-substrate
displacement conguration, is exure-supported, and has a
rectangular-shaped seismic mass [47]. Displacement of the
seismic mass is capacitancely detected using comb electrodes.
The sensor is fabricated using the high aspect ratio deep-reactive ion etching (DRIE) process in silicon, as described on
page 1546 of [48]. Crash-detection acceleration sensors have
the following features:
Integrated minimal-overshoot, low-pass (two-pole Bessel)
frequency ltering of the output signal.
Wide measurement bandwidth, dc-to-1000 Hz (to detect
short-duration crash events).
Wide dynamic measurement range, 80 dB.


Low noise operation, 1
Built-in self-monitoring failure detection and self-calibration.
I. Angular Rate (Gyro) Inertial Sensors
As in acceleration sensors, automotive angular-rate sensors
also utilize MEMS technologies. Their operation is based on
detection of the effects of Coriolis forces acting on various types
of vibrating mechanisms. Vibrating-ring, vibrating-tine (tuning
fork), and vibrating mass types of angular rate inertial sensors
were reviewed in [1] and [45]. Although the operating principles
of these sensors have remained the same, there have been several
Prior models of vibrating-tine automotive rate sensors
required a large circuit board footprint of as much as
25 50 mm. To minimize the circuit-board area taken up by
the sensor, considerable effort has been made to reduce sensor
size. The 25 50-mm sensor today comes in a 16 19-mm
(76% area reduction) footprint package [49]. The reduced
footprint was made possible by utilizing a micromachining
(etching) process to fabricate the double-ended quartz tuning
fork, reducing its length to 10 mm.
Smaller-footprint rate sensors have been achieved using the
vibrating-ring type of sensor. Sensor footprints of 9 9 mm
have been realized. This was done by: a) replacing an electromagnetic actuation type of ring vibration with a capacitive electrostatic vibration actuation [50]; b) micromachining a 4-mm
thick, exure-supported silicon ring; c) updiameter, 100grading from analog to digital circuitry; d) using back-to-back
stacking of electronics and sensing element dies; and e) utilizing
surface-mount packaging.
Automotive applications of angular rate sensors include the
1) Vehicle Electronic Stability Control (ESC): Vehicle yaw
angle rate detection is a key component of ESC which is now required on all new passenger vehicles under a United States federal safety standard that phases in beginning with 2009 models
[51]. This federal requirement for ESC systems created a huge
demand for rate sensors. ESC systems are not mandated in other
countries, but new car assessment programs (NCAPs) such as
Euro NCAP, Japan NCAP, etc., additionally drive demand in
these countries.
2) Active Chassis Suspension: Suspension control systems
use angular-rate sensors to detect vehicle roll-rate and pitchrate.
3) Rollover-Protection Side Curtain Airbags: Vehicle rollrate sensors are a key part of a sensor suite used to trigger deployment of rollover-protection side curtain airbags.
4) Vehicle Navigation Systems: Navigation Systems use
yaw-rate sensors to detect vehicle heading (yaw angle) when
the autonomous dead reckoning mode of navigation is required. Yaw angle is determined by a mathematical integration
of the yaw angular rate signal with respect to time. (When the
systems GPS absolute position signal is unavailable, near
tall buildings or inside tunnels, the system switches to an
autonomous navigation mode of operation).
Rollover-crash-detection rate sensors in Section IV-I3 require operating range and bandwidth several times greater



Fig. 9. Essential operating components of a dual vibrating-mass angular rate sensor used in vehicle electronic stability and active suspension control systems [52].

than rate sensors used for vehicle dynamics applications in

Sections IV-I1, IV-I2 and IV-I4. On the other hand, applications in Sections IV-I1 and IVI2, and in Section IV-I4
require greater accuracy than in Section IV-I3. Sensors used
in Section IV-I3, therefore, are not interchangeable with the
vehicle dynamics sensors. In the safety-critical applications of
types in Sections IV-I1 and IV-I3, built-in-test self-monitoring
failure detection is mandatory because sensor failure could result in a system anomaly. There are less stringent requirements
for applications in Sections IV-I2 and IV-I4.
Two new types of angular rate sensors are described.
5) Oscillating-Rotor Sensor: Comb electrodes on the periphery of a rotor electrostatically drive a center-pivoted exuresuspended rotor into rotary oscillatory motion. If no angular rate
acts perpendicular to the oscillating rotor, the disk continues its
in-plane rotary oscillation. When an angular rate exists, Coriolis
forces superimpose an out-of-plane tilting motion on the oscillating rotor. Rotor tilt with respect to its xed substrate is capacitively detected. Rotor tilt angle provides the angular rate output
signali.e., the greater the angular rate acting on the sensor,
the greater the rotor tilt angle, and the greater the output signal
[52]. This sensor is entirely fabricated using only surface micromachining in silicon. Detail on the multiple-degree-of-freedom
center-pivot exures that suspend the sensors oscillating and
tilting rotor are given in [53].
The oscillating-rotor sensor features low cost, small size,
and batch fabrication using standard micromachining processes
[52]. This type of MEMS processing is limited to making
smaller lighter-weight rotor masses (due to limited feature
sizes). For a given applied angular rate, Coriolis forces acting
on the rotors are therefore small. This type of sensor is not
sensitive enough for use in the stability control applications
of Section IV-I1, where high accuracy at low angular-rate
inputs are required. The sensor is, however, used in the rollover

and navigation applications (where higher angular rates are

measured), as described in Sections IV-I3 and IV-I4.
6) Dual Vibrating-Mass Sensor: The essential operating
components of this sensor are shown in Fig. 9. Comb electrodes
electrostatically drive dual masses in the axis direction, in an
in-plane anti-phase vibrating manner. If there is no angular rate
acting on the sensor, the masses continue their vibration along
the axis. When a axis angular rate input exists, Coriolis
forces induce a axis lateral motion, mutually perpendicular to
the directions of vibration and angular rate.
By design, Coriolis force-induced axis motions of the detection-frames (coupled to the masses) oscillate at an eigenfrequency. For better detection of the angular-rate signal, the eigenfrequency is approximately 20% different from the drive frequency. The axis motions of the detection-frame masses are
sensed capacitively by another set of comb electrodes, therein
providing an angular rate output signal. The sensor features high
accuracy, excellent signal-to-noise ratio, high reliability, surface-mount packaging and small size. More detail on this type
of sensor is found in [54].
The dual vibrating-mass sensor is made using a modied
DRIE process [48] which facilitates MEMS fabrication in silicon of larger, heavier, vibrating masses [52]. Although more
costly, this design satises the more demanding high accuracy
at low angular-rates requirements for use in stability control and
active suspension applications, described in Sections IV-I1 and
J. Chemical and Gas Composition Sensors
Exhaust gas oxygen monitoring, spark plug-mounted
in-cylinder ion-current misre/knock combustion sensors, and
exhaust gas NOx sensing types of chemical and gas composition sensors were reviewed in [1]. Updated information on the
signal processing associated with the spark plug in-cylinder


combustion ion-current engine misre/knock detection sensor

is found in [55]. An update on the status of NOx exhaust
gas sensors is given in [56]. New features and new types of
chemical and gas composition sensors are described here.
1) Exhaust Gas Oxygen Sensors: Exhaust gas oxygen sensors have been continually improved and the following new features have been introduced.
a) Pumped-channel air-reference: In planar exhaust gas
zirconia oxygen sensors, a solid-state pumped-channel air-reference has replaced the previously used open-cavity access to
ambient air. (Planar sensors consist of layered sheets of zirconia electrolyte bonded together into a structure that includes
electrodes, heating elements, and gas diffusion channels). This
prevents contamination of the electrode on the air reference
side of the sensor. Oxygen is electrochemically pumped from
exhaust gas (which, even for rich air-fuel ratio engine operation,
includes adequate amounts of oxygen) to the sensors reference electrode, through a zirconia solid electrolyte element.
A chamber adjacent to the reference electrode, internal to the
sensing element, is pumped full with oxygen. A small, 0.1
mA, bias current, with negative voltage polarity on an auxiliary
exhaust electrode, supplies oxygen via oxygen-ion conduction
through the zirconia channel [57].
b) Helical-swirl double-wall shroud: Certain models of
zirconia oxygen gas sensors utilize a math model-designed helical-swirl double-wall shroud which covers the sensing element. The shrouds design causes exhaust gas to swirl inside the
space between the shroud walls. The swirling action removes
particles and droplets, protecting the sensing element from contaminants in the exhaust gas. In addition, the swirling ow inside
the shroud provides longer gas residence time on the zirconia
outer electrode. This promotes more complete electrochemical
reactions and results in more accurate engine air-fuel ratio measurement [58].
c) Three exhaust gas oxygen sensors replace one: A
decade ago engine emissions control systems would typically
require only one exhaust oxygen sensor to control engine
air-fuel ratio exhaust composition owing into a catalytic converter. Current emissions systems often require two catalytic
converters in seriesan oxidation/reduction catalyst followed
by a NOx catalyst. To detect exhaust air-fuel mixture entering
each converter, and to satisfy onboard diagnostics requirements, emissions systems today often use three exhaust oxygen
sensorsone is positioned upstream of the rst converter, one
is between converters, and one is downstream of the second
converter [59].
2) Oil Quality Sensors: Oil quality sensors are mounted near
the bottom of the engine oil pan. Previous oil quality sensors
monitored oil level, oil temperature, and oil dielectric constant
(dielectric constant was used to detect ionic deterioration of the
oil). Modern oil sensors possess enhanced capabilities.
a) Measurement of oil viscosity: One sensor today includes an oil ow-across microacoustic sensor element.
Transducers in the sensor element piezoelectrically generate
120-MHz acoustic Love shear waves in a planar quartz surface layer. (Love waves propagate longitudinally with lateral
oscillating displacements). Differences in resonant frequencies
of oscillator circuits controlled by Love waves propagating on


a smooth quartz surface versus Love waves propagating on a

grooved, micromachined, quartz surface provide continuous
measurement of oil viscosity [60], [61].
A related sensor that also measures oil viscosity utilizes a
small quartz tuning fork immersed in oil. The tuning fork tines
are piezoelectrically driven and resonate at frequencies ranging
from 26 to 32 kHz. Characteristics of measured electrical impedances of the vibrating tuning fork versus frequency are analyzed to determine the oil viscosity [62].
b) Measurement of soot-in-oil: This sensor monitors oil
ow between concentric tubular electrodes. The sensor measures ac conductivity of diesel engine oil, both at a low-frequency of 20 Hz and at a high-frequency of 2 MHz. Measurements are made during engine warm-up and engine cool-down
cycles. In this way, it is assured that the oil temperature passes
through, and is measured at, an interpolated-constant temperature of 80 . When day-to-day trend data of the low-frequency
oil conductivity reverse slope, this occurrence indicates that the
engine oil has ionic contamination and for this reason needs to
be changed [63]. On the other hand, the high-frequency measurement of the oil ac conductivity provides an indication of
the concentration of soot in diesel engine oil. A computed ratio
of the high-frequency ac conductivity to the low-frequency ac
conductivity provides a quantitative measurement of the concentration of soot in diesel engine. When this ratio exceeds a
predetermined limit, it indicates that there is too much soot and
the oil should be changed [64].
A second approach to soot-in-oil measurement likewise
allows oil to ow between concentric tubular electrodes in a
sensor. This sensor makes mHz-to-kHz scans of the electrical
impedance of the oil. Changes in the relative magnitudes
of various frequency components of impedance are used to
determine the amount of soot in oil [65].
3) Flexible-Fuel Composition Sensors: In the United States,
corn is used to produce ethanol that is mixed with gasoline to
produce E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Because the chemical composition of ethanol includes oxygen, the
greater the percent of ethanol mixed with gasoline, the more
that engine air intake ow must be reduced to maintain stoichiometric combustion (correct oxygen-to-fuel mixture) for catalytic converter emissions control and good drivability. A exible fuel composition sensor is required to measure the ethanol
content of the fuel and provide an input signal to an engine control system.
The exible-fuel sensor, shown in Fig. 10, internally includes
concentric tubes and fuel ows in the space between the tubes.
One oscillator circuit in the sensor measures electrical capacitancei.e., dielectric constant of the fuel (which primarily determines the concentration of ethanol in the fuel). Other oscillators measure fuel conductivity and temperature (for compensation purposes). The oscillators do not utilize quartz crystal components [66].
4) Occupant Compartment Gas Detection Sensors: Many
luxury vehicles today have gas-detection sensors mounted in
the air intake duct of their heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. These sensors monitor quality of the
air entering the vehicle cabin/occupant compartment. In addition, a HVAC-control humidity sensor can be mounted in the


Fig. 10. Flexible-fuel sensor which measures ethanol content in fuel [66].

lower portion of the instrument panel, and a windshield fogging

prevention sensor can be mounted on the windshield behind the
rear view mirror. Each of these sensors is described.
a) Cabin air quality sensors: Cabin air quality sensors detect harmful gas fumes like carbon monoxide CO and nitrogen
in the outside air drawn in by the HVAC system.
When air quality is bad, i.e., when ambient air CO and/or
concentrations are high, the HVAC system temporarily shuts off
intake of outside air and switches to recirculation mode, routing
cabin air back through the HVAC air lter [67].
The sensing element of an air quality sensor typically con. The sensing element is desists of a thin porous layer of
posited on top of a silicon micromachined diaphragm. The thin
Si diaphragm has reduced thermal mass that allows rapid, low
power consumption, heating of the sensing element. A heating
element embedded in the diaphragm raises the temperature of
the sensing element to 400 , where the sensor has greater
gas-detection sensitivity, and is more specic to the target gases
-surface, electrochemit detects. When CO adsorbs on the
, while also inical surface reactions form the product gas
element resisjecting (adding) electrons. This causes the
tance to decrease. Adsorption of
gas has the opposite effect
on sensor resistance [68], [69].
b) Humidity sensors: Vehicle interior comfort was
originally controlled using only HVAC temperature and fan
adjustments. Auto manufacturers later utilized air conditioning
(A/C) to extract excess humidity and to increase occupant
comfort. The addition of in-cabin humidity sensors further
enhances cabin comfort, by automatically regulating HVAC
system operation to improve: i) comfort by automatically
activating A/C when humidity is high and ii) fuel economy by
turning off the A/C when it is not needed.
Automotive humidity sensors commonly detect humidity-induced changes of capacitance in porous polymer lms or thin
layers of porous metal oxide. As humidity increases, so does the
sensor capacitance. When relative humidity is low, below approximately 40%, no liquid water exists in the sensing material.
Only adsorbed water molecules exist and humidity-dependent
ion transport
changes of sensor capacitance are due to
among adsorbed water molecules in the porous sensor material
[70]. When relative humidity is high, greater than 40%, liquid
water can condense inside the pores of the sensing material.


Electrolytic ion conduction then occurs, creating microscopic

electrical shorting paths between opposite electrodes, which further increase sensor capacitance [70], [71]. Resistive-type humidity sensors function by the same principles as capacitive sensors, except that their resistance decreases with increasing humidity due to their electrode conguration.
c) Windshield fogging prevention sensor: Reliance solely
on a humidity sensor to prevent fogging of a windshield is not
sufcient. Reliable fog sensing can be obtained using a dewpoint sensor. The dew-point sensor includes three sensing elements that independently measure: i) windshield glass temperature; ii) cabin interior temperature; and iii) cabin humidity.
Window fogging is prevented, or removed, by operating the
HVAC so that the cabin air dew-point temperature is maintained
above the windshield glass temperature. The dew, or frost, point
of cabin air is determined using electronics integral to the sensor,
programmed to use pyschrometric equations to compute dew
point as a function of measured values of cabin temperature and
humidity [72].
K. Comfort and Convenience Sensors
Dimming mirror sensors, solar radiation/twilight sensors,
uid level sensors and rain-detection comfort and convenience
sensors were reviewed in [1]. While the automotive applications remain the same, there have been the following new
1) Automatic Dimming Mirrors: CMOS imager sensors
employ camera-on-chip technology, and are mounted on
the windshield behind the rear-view mirror. Upon sensing
oncoming light, a microprocessor integrated in the sensor performs object recognition. If approaching vehicle headlights or
preceding vehicle tail lamps are detected, the system gradually
turns off the high-beam headlights to reduce distraction to
other drivers. The system also detects and ignores ambient light
coming from streetlights, sign reections, buildings and other
sources. In situations where light from an approaching vehicle
is immediatee.g., when another vehicle crests a hillthe
system then reacts automatically and quickly switches to low
beam [73].
2) Solar Radiation/Twilight Sensors: Solar radiation/twilight sensors utilize solar heat-detecting photodiodes that
respond to near infrared wavelengths, plus twilight-detecting
photodiodes that respond to visible wavelengths. The solar and
twilight photodiodes are packaged together and mounted in
a single housing atop the instrument panel, near the base of
the windshield. The solar photodiodes in the sensor provide
input signals for automatic HVAC temperature control systems,
whereas the twilight photodiodes are used to automatically turn
on headlights.
3) Multizone Infrared (IR) Sensors: Since objects emit infrared (IR) radiation as a function of their temperature, IR sensors are able to measure the surface temperature of objects or
persons at a distance. Sunlight variations can cause fast temperature changes, with correspondingly rapid changes in vehicle
passenger comfort. IR sensors rapidly react to passenger exposed-skin temperature changes. The sensors provide closedloop feedback to a vehicle HVAC system in order to maintain
passenger-comfort desired temperatures. Dual infrared sensors


are mounted in the front face of the HVAC control panel. They
independently measure body surface temperatures of the driver
and passenger, and allow the HVAC to individually regulate
comfort according to the body temperatures of driver and passenger [74].
Standard CMOS MEMS technologies are used to fabricate
the IR sensor. Dozens of thermocouple (thermopile) junctions
and associated n-well thermistors are formed in thin membranes
etched in bulk silicon on each sensor. Electronics is provided via
a separate integrated-circuit chip [74].
4) Rain Sensors: Rain sensors provide feedback signals
for automatic windshield wiper control. Depending on design,
IR-beam optics in the sensors either refract light away from,
or reect more light back, when rain impinges on their optical
path at the interface between the windshield and the outside
weather. Detected changes in IR beam intensity are proportional to amount of rainfall.
A capacitive type of rain/fog sensor is also in production. The
capacitive sensor includes a at substrate. One side of the substrate has surface electrodes that capacitively generate electric
elds that extend (fringe) through the windshield to outside air
and interact with impinging raindrops. Changes in capacitance
(dielectric constant) indicate the presence of rain. The other
side of the substrate includes electronic signal processing [75].
The capacitive sensor geometrically has three-times greater
sensing area than the IR optical sensor and consequently
detects moisture on three-times greater windshield area than
the IR optical sensor. Because the capacitive sensor detects
moisture on a greater windshield sensing area than its optical
counterpart, it better responds to difcult-to-measure ne mist
and is less affected by a dirty windshield [75].
5) Fluid Level Sensors: Thermistors are commonly used to
detect low levels in coolant, fuel, brake, and steering uids. Differences between the self-heating temperature of the thermistor
when immersed in a uid, and not immersed, provide an output
signal. Another commonly used approach to low uid sensing
uses a magnet mounted in a oat. The magnet-in-oat travels
along a slotted keyway and rides up and down with the changes
in the uid level. A reed switch is mounted at a xed position.
As uid level drops, the magnet-in-oat descends, and when
the level of the uid drops below a predetermined point, the
magnets eld actuates the reed switch, therein providing a low
uid level signal [76].
L. Occupant Safety and Security Sensors
The United States enacted a safety standard that among other
things includes operating requirements for advanced airbag systems [77]. The standard is unique to the U.S. and has not been
adopted by other countries. The standard applies to all vehicles in the United States manufactured since model year 2004.
The standard gives special attention to protection of infants in
rear-facing infant seats, unbelted small children, short-stature
adults, and elderly adultspersons who have been disproportionately susceptible to injury by early-model airbags. Occupant
safety sensors developed specically to make airbags safer and
to comply with this standard are described below.
1) Occupant Safety Sensors: The federal standard for advanced airbags offers three compliance options. The option most


Fig. 11. Strain-gage sensing elements, integrated in seat-frame corner mounts

detect difference between seated weights of large male passenger and small female (or child) [79].

commonly used by automakers utilizes occupant-sensing technologies to statically classify occupants (weight, size, position)
and when necessary to suppress airbag ination if an at-risk occupant is detected in a seat [77].
The following sensors are used for occupant static classication purposes in advanced airbag control systems.
a) Seated weight sensors: Seated weight sensors measure
occupants seated weight to distinguish small children from
adults in the right-front passenger seat. When a lighter-weight
passenger is detected, the airbag system is adjusted to provide
a softer bag deployment, or no deployment at all if a child
or empty seat is detected. There are two main types of seated
weight sensors used in production vehicles today.
Seat cushion-embedded, uid-lled bladder with pressure
sensor readout [78].
Strain-gage sensing elements, integrated in seat-base
corner mounts [79], as shown in Fig. 11.
b) Seatbelt tension sensors: Seatbelt tension sensors detect
the apparent added weight of a tightly belted child restraint seat.
For example, a large toddler in heavy child seat, buckled-in with
high seatbelt tension, might be mistaken for a small adult female. Even though they both may have the same apparent seated
weight, the airbag cannot deploy on the child, but must deploy on the adult female. Inputs from the seatbelt tension sensor
allow belt tension to be factored out of the seated weight measurement, therein avoiding an inappropriate airbag deployment
on a child. Seatbelt tension sensors are typically mounted at the
seatbelt buckle-anchor locations. The sensors often consist of
a magnet in a spring-loaded assembly, where belt-tension-induced displacement of the magnet is sensed using a Hall-effect
sensor [80].
c) Seatbelt buckle status sensors: Seatbelt buckle status
sensors are used to detect whether or not an occupants seatbelt
is buckled. This input is, for example, used by airbag systems,
which have dual-level bag ination rates. When an occupants
seatbelt is buckled, a less aggressive bag ination rate is used
because the seatbelt is already restraining the occupant. Buckle
status sensors consist of a magnetic circuit internal to the buckle


that includes a magnet, a Hall-effect sensor, and a circuit-completion buckle latch member. Full engagement of the buckles
latch into the tongues latch window completes the magnetic circuit [81].
d) Seat position sensors: Seat position sensors are used to
detect whether a drivers seat is positioned far forward which indicates that a short-stature person is driving the vehicle. When
the drivers seat is far forward, typically in 80%-to-100% of
full forward travel, this indicates that the driver is close to the
steering-wheel airbag. When a driver is seated this far forward,
and a moderate-severity crash occurs, bag deployment can be
suppressed because: i) at this close distance the steering wheel
itself is protecting the driver and ii) there is a risk that the drivers
close proximity could result in unintended injury by the deploying airbag. Seat position sensors typically consist of a magnetic circuit that includes a magnet, a Hall-effect sensor, and a
circuit-completion vane member. A ferromagnetic steel vane attached to the bottom of the drivers seat acts as the circuit-completion member. The vane completes the magnetic circuit when
the seat is positioned far forward [82].
2) Intrusion-Detection Security Sensors: Two-way remote
keyless entry (RKE) and antitheft systems both utilize sensors
to detect unauthorized intrusion into vehicles. Intrusion sensors
are mounted inside the vehicle cabin. Types of sensors most
commonly used for intrusion detection are:
Shock/vibration/motion, where low-frequency interior
vibrations, vehicle swaying, or vehicle bouncing are detected.
Glass breakage [83]. In some cases, microphones detect
the breakage and neural-network pattern recognition of the
detected acoustic energy spectrum is utilized.
Ultrasonic doppler motion detection utilizes signal processing that ignores stationary objects [84].
Passive far-IR body-heat detection [83].
M. Distance Sensors
Distance sensors monitor areas surrounding a vehicle, and are
designed to detect dangerous obstacles such as other vehicles
on paths of potential collision. Distance sensors are categorized
as: a) long range sensors which look forward at distances of
approximately 30100 m and b) short range sensors which look
in all directions around the vehicle at distances of approximately
030 m. Advances in sensor technology and new automotive
applications are presented here.
1) Long Range Distance Sensors: Adaptive cruise control
(ACC) systems require long-range distance sensors which use
either 77-GHz (a government-regulated frequency) millimeterwave radar or near-infrared laser radar. Instead of simply maintaining vehicle speed, ACC maintains distance from the car in
front. If a vehicle cuts in front, the subject vehicle automatically
slows down and maintains a safe separation distance. If a lead
vehicle speeds away, then the subject vehicle automatically resumes to its own set speed. Mutual interference among multiple
vehicle radar beams is suppressed, for example, by synchronizing the modulation of the radars transmit carrier frequency
with its receiver tuning frequency, thereby distinguishing its
own received signal from those of other radars. Pseudorandom


modulation of the carrier frequency is one method used to suppress mutual interference.
Another application for long-range distance sensors is forward collision warning. Studies have shown that, 60% of
rear-end collisions could be avoided if drivers had an extra half
second to react, and there is 90% avoidance with a full one
second reaction time [85]. ACC distance sensors provide the
necessary reaction time.
The four types of sensors, described here were selected because each one is currently used in one or more production
vehicles. Pros and cons corresponding to the various types of
long-range distance sensors are summarized as follows.
Three sensor types are millimeter-wave radarseach featuring all-electronic (no moving parts) scanning operation,
along with the ability to penetrate inclement weather. The
pulsed doppler type of radar features a GaAs Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC) design providing very fast
radar scan update rates. The FM/CW radar claims to be the
smallest and lightest automotive radar sensor in production
today. Monopulse radar also features MMIC technology along
with complete range and azimuthal (horizontal) angle information derived from each received pulse.
Laser radar, the fourth type of long-range distance sensor,
features great accuracy and very low cost (said to be 1/3 the
cost of mm-wave radar), but laser radar cannot penetrate heavy
fog, rain, or snow.
a) Pulsed doppler radar: Pulsed doppler radar transmits pulses (bursts) of continuous-wave signals which upon
reecting from a moving target additionally include a doppler
frequency shift as a means for discriminating moving from
xed targets [112]. Gallium-arsenide MMIC circuits provide
fast switching of three transmit/receive beams which sequentially scan the right-side, center, and left-side azimuthal areas
of the roadway [87]. The output signal of pulsed-doppler radar
provides range, range closing rate, and azimuthal location of
targets. Target range is derived from pulse transit time, range
closing rate is derived from the doppler frequency shift in
the received pulse, and target azimuthal angle is derived from
knowledge of which one of the three beams, or combination
of beams, detected the target. Pulsed doppler radar is used in
certain luxury European and North American vehicles.
FM/CW radar:
Frequency-modulated/continuous-wave radar directly measures range and closing speed.
Beat frequencies, the differences between transmit and
doppler-shifted received signal frequencies, are computed.
To extract vehicle range, sums of the beat frequencies are
formed (doppler shifts cancel out when beat frequencies are
summed). On the other hand, differences between beat frequencies indicates range-closing rate (range components cancel out
when differences are computed) [86]. In this way, both target
range and closing rate are simultaneously measured.
One conguration of this radar transmits a 10 wide ood
beam. Three 3 wide received beam directions are electronically
switched in the receive antenna, therein providing azimuthal
scanning of the roadway [85]. In another conguration of the
radar, instead of just switching receive beams, the combined
transmit-and-receive beams are simultaneously switched among
the three or four azimuthal directions [88]. This latter type of


Fig. 12. Types of automotive long-range distance sensors currently found in

production vehicles.

distance sensor is the smallest,

, automotive
radar sensor in production today. FM/CW radars are found in
certain European and North American luxury vehicles.
c) Monopulse radar: Range and azimuthal angle information is obtained from single pulses that are transmitted and cover
a wide forward area. Sum and differences of detected phases of
wavefronts of reected pulses are detected by dual side-by-side
receive antenna elements in the radar [89], [113]. Target range is
derived from pulse transit time of the sum signal, range closing
rate is derived by tracking target range data versus time, and
target azimuthal angle is derived from the phase difference of
the received pulse wavefront as detected by the side-by-side receive antenna elements.
When a target is straight ahead, the dual antennas will simultaneously detect the received pulse wavefront, and the azimuthal
phase angle is zero. If the target is located to the right of the
vehicle, then the detected phase of the right-hand receive antenna will be leading, and the azimuthal phase angle will have
a positive value, and vice versa if the target is on the left side.
Monopulse radar is found in certain luxury European vehicles
and in heavy trucks in both North America and Europe.
d) Laser radar: In addition to millimeter-wave radar,
850-nm-wavelength laser radar is another long-range distance
automotive sensor. (Laser radar is also called lidar, acronym
light + radar). Transit times of laser pulses (from laser, to target,
and back, divided by two), times the speed of light, determine
distances. Electromechanically driven mirrors scan the laser
beam in two directions: i) in the azimuthal plane and ii) in
the elevation plane [90]. Target range is derived from pulse
transit time, range closing rate is derived by tracking target
range data versus time, and target azimuthal angle is derived
from knowledge of the direction the beam was pointed when it


detected the target. In rotating-mirror types of scanning ACC

systems, laser diodes generate the laser beam [91]. Laser radar
is found in certain luxury and mid-price Japanese and North
American vehicles.
Examples of each of the four types of long-range distance
sensors are seen in Fig. 12.
2) Short Range Distance Sensors: Seven automotive system
applications use short-range distance sensors, namely:
Blind spot detection uses radar, or camera vision, to monitor side rear-quarter areas outside a vehicles side mirrors
elds of view. When cameras are used, image recognition
algorithms detect shapes of vehicles.
Lane departure warning uses cameras, plus vision processing and lane recognition algorithms, to detect vehicle
departure from road lanes.
Forward collision warning with pre-impact brake assist
uses short-range radar, and in some systems camera vision with vehicle recognition algorithms, to detect rapid
closing rates with respect to slower-speed, stopped vehicles, or pedestrians, ahead.
Pre-Sang uses radar to detect imminent collisions.
Pre-sang distance sensor information is used to pretension motorized seatbelts, pre-arm airbags, apply
prebraking, and move seats and windows into more protective positions. In Europe and Japan, it can also deploy
pedestrian protective devices such as external air bags or
raised hoods.
Backup/reversing obstacle detection uses ultrasonic sensors, radar, or camera vision, and combinations of the sensors, some with object recognition algorithms. Backup obstacle detection warns drivers of potential backup collision
objects. Backover crashes in the United States currently
cause over 180 fatalities annually (mostly children, often
occurring in the drivers driveway). The problem has worsened due to vision obscuration associated with increasingly popular vans and SUVs.
Parking assist generally uses ultrasonic sensors, but certain
luxury vehicles use radar or camera vision. Self-parking
systems require the added availability of certain vehicle
subsystems such as: electrically actuated steering, electrohydraulically actuated braking, wheel-speed sensing, and
steering-wheel angle sensing. These subsystems are already included in other vehicle systems such as EPS and
ESC, and are simply shared with the parking assist system.
Stop-and-go/low-speed ACC utilizes radar and camera-vision sensor fusion, together with object recognition algorithms. This system takes control of the vehicle during
stop-and-go driving. The system automates driving so the
driver can do other things (read, download e-mail, etc.),
while the car automatically negotiates stop-and-go trafc.
Automotive system applications that use short-range distance
sensors, and respective sensing areas, are illustrated in Fig. 13.
In Table II, eight distance sensor technologies are categorized
in terms of short- and long-range automotive applications. This
table also identies areas around the vehicle that are monitored
in each application.
Pros and cons corresponding to short-range distance sensors are summarized as follows. Radar short-range sensors



Fig. 13. Automotive system applications that use short-range distance sensors [92].


Sense areas and application uses are based on published literature and the judgment of the author.
Also utilizes vehicle dynamics sensor inputs (braking, deceleration, etc.)
Various types of short-range radars, sometimes together with camera vision, detect rapid closing rates of
slower-speed vehicles with respect to nearby slow or stopped vehicles or pedestrians ahead.
Various types of long-range radars detect rapid closing rates of faster-speed vehicles with respect to more
distant slow or stopped vehicles ahead.

typically operate at a frequency of 24-GHz which, compared to long-range 77-GHz frequency, allows for wider
beamwidths and broader road coverage, as required for
short-range operation.
Ultra-wideband (UWB) radars feature extremely fast measurement update rates and close-range high resolution that allows separate tracking of multiple approaching targets. Multibeam-forming radars feature near real-time broad-area coverage
of blind spots. Laser radars feature great accuracy, fast update
rates, and very low cost, but they cant penetrate heavy fog, rain,
or snow. Camera vision has good lateral object size resolution,
but its range measurement accuracy is poor, and it also does not
penetrate heavy fog, rain, or snow. Ultrasonic sensors have slow

measurement update rates and are susceptible to errors caused

by inclement weather (including high wind), but are very low
a) Ultra-wideband radar: Short-range automotive UWB
radars currently operate in Europe and the United States at
the same regulation-allowed center frequency of 24 GHz, with
bandwidths of 7 GHz (U.S.) and 5 GHz (EU). This will be the
case for the foreseeable future in the U.S. However, in Europe,
starting in year 2013, the UWB center frequency will likely be
moved, from 24 to 79 GHz. UWB sensors transmit very short
pulses and, therefore, require large ultra wide bandwidths.
Although UWB sensors transmit wide bandwidth signals,
interference effects are mitigated because [92], [93]:


Fig. 14. An automotive 24-GHz UWB distance sensor (exploded view). This
short-range radar sensor is currently available in the United States and Europe
and is approximately the size of a deck of playing cards [92].

By regulation, total radiated power from automotive radars

is limited to a few tens of milliwatts.
The low level of radiated power is spread over a wide bandwidth, resulting in extremely low radiated spectral power
An automotive 24-GHz UWB distance sensor is shown in
Fig. 14.
UWB radar is used in short-range applications because it
features: i) fast measurement update rates (typically 100 updates per second); ii) wide eld of view (80 at 24 GHz); and
iii) close-range high resolution which allows separate tracking
of multiple targets. The use of pulse modulation provides extremely fast update rates which are also facilitated by rangegated processing of the pulse signals [94].
Short-range UWB radar sensors are also easier to conceal
than, for example, laser sensors. This is because radar sensors
can be integrally housed in a vehicle bumper, behind plastic
fascia, giving them a concealment edge over laser radar and
Certain luxury cars today have as many as seven radars
on-boarda single long-range forward-viewing pulsed-doppler
radar and six short-range UWB pulse-modulated radars. The
radars operate on a high-speed common-bus network. Two
radars provide forward-viewing short-range coverage for
forward collision warning and pre-sang. The other four
short-range radars are mounted near each of the four corners of
the vehicle for parking assist and blind spot detection [95].
b) Multibeam-forming radar: For rapid scanning of shortrange wide areas, certain automotive radars employ electronic
forming of eight or more narrow beams. Multiple beams are
electronically generated via switching among ports in a Butler
matrix using computer-controlled excitation of planar-patch antennas. (A Butler matrix divides input power into output ports
with equal amplitudes and with linear phase taper. Electronic
beam scanning can be realized when a Butler matrix is used as
a feed circuit for antennas) [96]. Alternatively, multiple beams


are obtained by transmitting electronically switched FM/CW

beams through phase-array antenna elements using digital beam
forming [97].
c) Laser radar: Laser radar emits narrow, pulsed,
850-nm-wavelength IR beams. Short-range laser beams are
scanned over a wide area of horizontal and vertical directions. Transit times of individual pulses determine distances
to reecting targets. The laser beam is scanned using an
electromechanically driven mirror. A trifocal lens provides
a variable azimuthal coverage pattern; namely,
short-range side-angle scanning.
scanning, widening to
Throughout the entire azimuthal range, the beam also scans over
-elevation range. This scanning pattern facilitates near
side-angle beams detect vehicles
object detection. The
turning off the roadway at sharp angles and/or cutting-in-front
vehicles [98].
d) Camera vision: Vehicle camera-vision serves either
of two applications: i) scene viewing, e.g., as used in vehiclebackup camera displays and ii) scene understanding machine
vision; e.g., when no one actually sees the video, as in lane
departure warning. For use in automotive scene understanding
applications, camera vision must have 120-dB dynamic brightness adaptability (to allow the camera to produce clear images
in all lighting conditions). On-vehicle cameras also have to
work reliably in a harsh environment with operating temperC to 85 C, and work with longer
atures ranging from
lifetimes than for consumer-oriented cameras [99]. Space
around the windshield rearview mirror where these cameras are
mounted is valuable, so another key factor is reduced camera
size. As evident in Table II, camera vision has more distance
sensing applications than other sensor technologies.
Although camera vision has good lateral resolution (i.e., good
size of object resolution), its range measurement accuracy is
poor. On the other hand, radar has excellent range accuracy, but
its lateral resolution is limited. Consequently, radar and camera
vision technologies are often combined, using sensor fusion, to
reliably detect both the range and size of objects [100].
e) Ultrasonic sensors: Vehicle reversing and parking aids
commonly use low-cost short-range ultrasonic sensors. The sensors operate at frequencies in the neighborhood of 50 kHz. They
simultaneously transmit and receive short ultrasonic pulses by
means of a piezoelectric membrane element. A single sensor
lacks sufcient beamwidth. Therefore, full coverage of a vehicles backup lateral area requires acquisition of signals from
typically four sensors. Signal processing circuitry is integrated
in the sensor. Ultrasonic sensors have a detection range of about
2.5 m. There are development efforts to extend the range to 4.0
m. The sensors are mounted in the vehicle bumper fascia and
have the appearance of a linear array of four circular dimples
N. Night Vision Sensors
Night vision sensors view the road and roadside nighttime
scene ahead. To assist the driver, these systems project video of
the scene onto heads-up or instrument-panel mounted displays.
Two different technologies are used for night vision: a) far-infrared (FIR) sensors that detect long-wavelength IR warm-body
thermal radiation and b) near-infrared (NIR) sensors that project



regardless of temperature. A NIR camera uses plain glass optics

and is lower cost than a FIR camera. When it is warm outside,
, NIR vision stays clear,
with temperature above about 32
while FIR displays may turn fuzzy gray.
NIR illumination is created by special headlamps. CCD or
CMOS cameras image the roadway illuminated by the NIR light
and their output signals are processed to provide continuous display of the nighttime scene [105]. NIR illuminators are typically mounted in vehicle headlight clusters. The NIR camera
is mounted inside the windshield behind the rearview mirror.
To avoid blinding between oncoming vehicles, NIR systems
use random pulse-modulation of the NIR illumination and synchronous detection cameras.
O. Future Automotive Sensors Needs

Fig. 15. Two types of automotive night vision technology are used. (a) FIR
warm body-detect camera [106]. (b) NIR illuminator and camera [100].

shorter-wavelength nonvisible IR illumination to provide daytime-like images of the roadway.

The two types of night vision sensors are seen in Fig. 15.
Both types of night vision sensing technologies are in current
use on production luxury vehicles in Europe, Japan, and North
America. Advances in night vision sensor technology are described.
1) FIR Thermal-Radiation Sensors: FIR thermal camera vision is passivei.e., nonradiating. This sensor detects nonvis, long-IR wavelengths, emitted by warm-body obible, 814
jects. Since no illumination source is required, a FIR system
does not blind oncoming night vision-equipped cars, and extra
electronics are not needed to prevent blinding. Because FIR detection accentuates warm bodies of humans and animals; pedestrians, for example, are detected at greater distances than with
the NIR type of night vision. There has also been continued improvement of FIR image quality [101].
Focal plane arrays are used to detect the image in FIR night
vision cameras. (Note. Bolometric elements change electrical
resistance or capacitance upon exposure to FIR radiation. Materials such as barium-strontium-titanate [102] or vanadium
oxide [103] exhibit useful bolometric performance). A typical
bolometric elfocal plane array includes
ements. Signals from bolometric elements are processed using
on-chip electronics in the camera to provide a continuous display of the nighttime scene. An example of an advanced FIR
night vision system that additionally includes image processing
(to recognize pedestrians at night) is described in [104].
2) NIR Illumination Sensors: NIR camera vision detects
short-wavelength IR illumination.
nonvisible 0.78-to-1.0
These wavelengths are slightly longer than visible wavelengths.
NIR sensors provide a driver-friendly night scene display,
visibly showing road markers and reective signs. It provides
images that the driver is used to seeing, and detects all objects

Beyond obvious needs of being smaller, lower cost, and

better integrated into system networks; there are additionally
the following future needs for automotive sensors.
The introduction of advanced engine and alternative
power-source control system technologies, to satisfy more
demanding fuel economy and emissions standards, will
require new sensors to provide monitoring of combustion processes. This will necessitate the development
) sensors that
of high-temperature (greater than 400
measure power-source internal pressures, temperatures,
, NOx, and likely
gas concentrations.
There is a continuing need for powertrain clutchshaft (engine-out) and driveshaft (transmission-out) torque sensors.
As described in Section IV-G, progress has been made, but
there is currently no practical torque sensor available for
the difcult clutchshaft and driveshaft applications.
As evident in Table II, there are several applications for
radar and camera distance sensors. Exemplary new technologies currently under development to serve these applications are: (a) SiGe BiCMOS radar technology that functions to 100 GHz [107] and (b) highly integrated low-cost
detector-array cameras with high-performance image processors [108]. Because numerous nonautomotive applications also exist for these technologies, nonautomotive
needs will drive these two developments to maturity irrespective of automotive driving factors.
P. Automotive Sensors Technology Forecast
Sensor technologies forecast to nd new automotive applications in the future are as follows.
Within 5-to-10 years, sensors that operate at temperatures
will provide new means of monitoring
above 400
on-engine combustion processes [109].
Within 10 years, sensors will have evolved from: becoming wireless, then batteryless and wireless, and
ultimately becoming energy harvesting and batteryless
and wireless [110].
Ten-to-twenty years from now, carbon nanotubes may
serve as sensing elements in nanoelectromechanical
sensors which will provide new means of measuring temperature, uid ow, chemical gas concentrations, pressure,
and strain [111].


A comprehensive update and review of current-production
automotive sensor technologies is presented. New types of automotive sensors ranging from torque sensors to short-range
distance sensors are described. In addition, new features available in automotive sensors that measure acceleration and comfort/convenience are reviewed. New automotive systems applications, made possible by use of sensors that make measurements ranging from angular rate to occupant safety, are also
Use of TRW Automotive Inc. resources and facilities in the
Systems Technology Department of Occupant Safety Systems,
Washington, MI, were essential in preparing this review paper
and are gratefully appreciated.
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William J. Fleming (S63M64SM78LSM08)

received the B.E.E. degree in electrical engineering
from the University of Detroit, Detroit, MI, and the
M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering
from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Retired, served as a Technical Specialist at TRW
Automotive Inc., Occupant Safety Systems, where he
developed new safety-restraint sensor-related products and did studies involving risk-analysis and new
technology. Prior to this, he developed new types of
sensors for use in automotive control systems at TRW
Automotive Electronics Group. Before that, he was involved in sensor development for automotive engine control systems at General Motors Research Laboratories. From 1995 to 2007, he served as an Instructor of the seminar, Sensors and ActuatorsPowertrain, Chassis and Body Applications, offered by
the Society of Automotive Engineers. Approximately 1500 automotive industry
personnel attended the seminars. He has published more than 30 papers.
Dr. Fleming was the recipient of the Society of Automotive Engineers Vincent Bendix, and Forest R. McFarland Awards. He also received the Avant Garde
Award, and the Long-Term Leadership Award from the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society.