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Automotive Sensors

A device which provides a usable output in response to a specified measurand.

Devices which perform an “Input” function are commonly called Sensors because they “sense” a
physical change in some characteristic that changes in response to some excitation, for example
heat or force and covert that into an electrical signal.

Basic Requirement of sensors:

Sensors are pervasive. They are embedded in our bodies, automobiles, airplanes, cellular
telephones, radios, chemical plants, industrial plants and countless other applications. Without
the use of sensors, there would be no automation !!

The basic requirements are :

• Ruggedness
Ability to withstand overloads, with safety stops for overload protection.
• Linearity
Ability to reproduce input-output characteristics symmetrically and linearly. Overall linearity is
the main factor considered.
• Repeatability
Ability to reproduce the output signal exactly when the same measurand is applied repeatedly
under same environmental conditions.
• Convenient Instrumentation

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Sufficiently high analog output signal with high signal to noise ratio; digital output preferred in
many cases.
• High Stability and Reliability
Minimum error in measurement, unaffected by temperature, vibrations and environmental
• Good Dynamic Response
Output is faithful to input when taken as a function of time. This effect is analyzed as the
frequency response.
• Excellent Mechanical Characteristics
This can affect the performance in static, quasi-static, and dynamic states.
The major effects are :
(i) Mechanical Hysteresis
The dependence of the strain not only on the instantaneous value of the stress but also on the
previous history of stress. Effect depends on the raw material used, aging, etc.
(ii) Viscous Flow or Creep
Effect due to viscous flow in the material of the sensing element. Magnitude increases
with increasing load and temperature. Materials with low melting point show larger creep
(iii) Elastic after Effect
A continued deformation when the load is applied and kept constant. This effect decreases with
time. Like creep, there is a similar relaxation towards the original position when the load is
removed. Virtually no deformation is observed.
• Built-in integrated device with noise, asymmetry, and other defects minimized.

Different Automotive Sensors:

• Mass Air flow rate sensor (MAF)
• Exhaust gas Oxygen concentration (O2)
• Throttle plate angular position (TPS)
• Crankshaft angular position (CPS)
• Engine Coolant temperature (ECT)
• Intake air temperature (IAT)
• Manifold absolute pressure (MAP)
• Vehicle speed Sensor (VSS/OSS)
• Transmission gear selector position
• Methanol sensor
• Rain Sensor & Rain sensing wiper

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Mass Air flow rate sensor (MAF)
(For EFI)

A mass air flow sensor (MAF) is used to find out the mass flow rate of air entering a fuel-
injected internal combustion engine.The air mass information is necessary for the engine control
unit (ECU) to balance and deliver the correct fuel mass to the engine. Air changes its density as
it expands and contracts with temperature and pressure. In automotive applications, air
density varies with the ambient temperature, altitude and the use of forced induction, which
means that mass flow sensors are more appropriate than volumetric flow sensors for determining
the quantity of intake air in each cylinder.

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There are two common types of mass airflow sensors in use on automotive engines. These are
the vane meter and the hot wire

Hot wire air flow sensor

The distinct advantage of a hot wire air flow sensor is that it measures air mass flow. The basic
principle is that, as air passes over a hot wire it tries to cool the wire down. If a circuit is created
such as to increase the current through the wire in order to keep the temperature constant, then
this current will be proportional to the air flow. A resistor is also incorporated to compensate for
temperature variations. The ‘hot wire’ is made of platinum, is only a few millimeters long and
about 70m thick. Because of its small size the time constant of the sensor is very short – in fact
in the order of a few milliseconds. This is a great advantage as any pulsations of the air flow will
be detected and reacted to in a control unit accordingly. The output of the circuit involved with
the hot wire sensor is a voltage across a precision resistor

Vane meter sensor

The Vane meter sensor measures the air flow into the engine with a spring-loaded air flap
attached to a variable resistor. The vane moves in relation to the airflow, and a voltage is
generated proportionally to the distance the vane moves. Therefore the movement of the vane
controls the amount of fuel injected.

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Many Vane meter airflow sensors have an air-fuel adjustment screw, which opens or closes a
small air passage on the side of the sensor. This screw controls the air-fuel mixture by letting a
metered amount of air flow past the air flap, thereby, leaning or richening the mixture. This
allows for calibration of the sensor. By turning the screw clockwise the mixture is enriched and
counterclockwise the mixture is leaned.

Oxygen Sensor (O2)

This sensor is used in the mechanism serving for air fuel ratio measurement, it is installed in the
exhaust system of the vehicle, attached to the engine's exhaust manifold, the sensor measures the
ratio of the air-fuel mixture

phenomenon by sending the ECU a signal that engine knock is occurring. The ECU in The
oxygen sensor, located in the exhaust turn retards the ignition timing to stop the manifold, senses
whether the air-fuel ratio is knocking. Knock sensors contain a piezo rich or lean, and sends
signals to the ECU.

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Electric element which, when deformed by which in turn makes minor corrections to the cylinder
block vibration caused by knocking, amount of fuel being metered. This is generates a voltage.
necessary for the three-way catalytic converter to function properly.
There are two kinds of oxygen sensors: zirconia and titania. The zirconia oxygen sensor
is constructed in a bulb configuration from zirconia dioxide. A thin platinum plate is attached to
both the inside and outside of the bulb. The inner area is exposed to the atmosphere and the
outside is exposed to the exhaust. When the sensor is heated to approximately 600˚F, electrically.

Type: 1) ZrO2 type 2) TiO2type

O2 Sensor is used in feedback system for computer control injection engine, to sense the oxygen
quantity in gas emission and judge the air flow ratio, then use the ratio of 14.7:1 to be a monitor
to send signal back to PCM.

The inside and outside of ZrO2 (pipe coated thin layer of platinum, to make the electrical pole
and Electronic Motive Force to produce the amplification. The outside of Zr02
pipe explores in the emission of low oxygen and the inside is with atmosphere. The thickness
difference of oxygen will produce Electronic Motive Force.

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Crankshaft position sensor (CPS)
A crank position sensor is a component used in an internal combustion engine to monitor the
position or rotational speed of the crankshaft. This information is used by engine management
systems to control ignition system timing and other engine parameters.

The functional objective for the crankshaft position sensor is to determine the position and/or
rotational speed (RPM) of the crank. Engine Control Units use the information transmitted by the
sensor to control parameters such as ignition timing and fuel injection timing. The sensor output
can also be related to other sensor data including the cam position to derive the current
combustion cycle, this is very important for the starting of a four stroke engine.

Sometimes, the sensor may become burnt or worn out. The most likely causes of crankshaft
position sensor failure are exposure to extreme heat. Many modern crankshaft sensors are closed
units and therefore will not be damaged by water or other fluids. When it goes bad, it stops
transmitting the signal which contains the vital data for the ignition and other parts in the system.
A bad crank position sensor can worsen the way the engine idles, the pistons fire, or the
acceleration behaviour. If the engine is revved up with a bad or faulty sensor, it may cause
misfiring, motor vibration or backfires. Accelerating might be hesitant, and abnormal shaking
during engine idle might occur. In the worst case the car may not start. The first sign of
crankshaft sensor failure, usually, is the refusal of the engine to start when hot but will start again
once the engine has cooled.

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Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)

A throttle position sensor is a sensor used to monitor the position of the throttle in an internal
combustion engine. The sensor is usually located on the butterfly spindle so that it can directly
monitor the position of the throttle valve butterfly.
Related to the TPS are accelerator pedal sensors, which often include a wide open
throttle (WOT) sensor. The accelerator pedal sensors are used in electronic throttle control
(ETC) or "drive by wire" systems, and the most common use of a wide open throttle sensor is for
the kick-down function on automatic transmissions.
Modern day sensors are non contact type. These modern non contact TPS include Hall effect
sensors, Inductive sensors,magnetoresistive and others. In the potentiometric type sensors, a
multi-finger metal brush/rake is in contact with a resistive strip, while the butterfly valve is
turned from the lower mechanical stop (minimum air position) to WOT, there is a change in the
resistance and this change in resistance is given as the input to the ECU.

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For a car to run smoothly, it needs the proper mixture of air and fuel. The amount of air in the
engine is controlled by the air intake system. A throttle body is part of the air intake system that
helps control the amount of air that gets into the engine. The throttle body has a throttle plate. If
the plate is closed, it prevents the air from getting into the engine. When you push the gas pedal,
it opens the plate, allowing the air to enter the engine. The amount of air depends on the position
of the plate, which is controlled by the gas pedal. The harder you push the gas pedal, the wider
the plate will open, and more air will flow to the engine. This means more power and more
The throttle position sensor reports the position of the gas pedal to the computer in your car
(Engine Control Unit). The computer then determines the position of the throttle plate. It also
calculates the amount of air flow to the engine and the amount of fuel to be injected for the
required ratio of air-fuel mixture. The throttle position sensor also controls the shifting of the
gears. If this sensor stops working, the car's computer will not be able to calculate the right
amount of fuel to be injected in the system. It may not be able to change the gears. Your car will
not get the right amount of power. It may not even start. The Check Engine light may come on.

Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (CTS)

The coolant temperature sensor is used to measure the temperature of the engine coolant of an
internal combustion engine. The readings from this sensor are then fed back to the Engine
control unit (ECU). This data from the sensor is then used to adjust the fuel injection and ignition
timing. On some vehicles the sensor may be used to switch on the electronic cooling fan. The
data may also be used to provide readings for a coolant temperature gauge on the dash. The
coolant temperature sensor works using resistance. As temperature subjected to the sensor
increases the internal resistance changes. Depending on the type of sensor the resistance will
either increase or decrease.

Intake Air Temperature sensor

The Intake Air Temperature (IAT) sensor determines the air temperature inside the intake
manifold. Resistance changes in response to the ambient air temperature. The sensor has a
negative temperature coefficient. As the temperature of the sensor rises the resistance across the
sensor decreases. This provides a signal to the PCM indicating the temperature of the incoming
air charge. This sensor helps the PCM to determine spark timing and air/fuel ratio. Information
from this sensor is added to the pressure sensor information to calculate the air mass being sent
to the cylinders. The IAT is a two wire sensor, a 5-volt reference signal is sent to the sensor and
the signal return is based upon the change in the measured resistance due to temperature.
Testing the intake air temperature (IAT) sensor, which is located inside the mass air flow (MAF)
sensor, can easily be done with a scan tool and/or a multimeter.
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The advantage which makes a nickel thick-film thermistor ideal for inlet air temperature sensing
is very short time constant. In other words its resistance varies very quickly with a change in air
temperature. Figure shows the construction of this device. The response of a thick film sensor is
almost linear. It has a sensitivity of about 2 ohms/° C and, as with most metals, it has a positive
temperature coefficient (PTC) characteristic.

Manifold Air Pressure (MAP) Sensor

A manifold absolute pressure sensor (MAP) is one of the sensors used in an internal
combustion engine's electronic control system. The manifold absolute pressure sensor provides
instantaneous manifold pressure information to the engine's electronic control unit (ECU). The

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data is used to calculate air density and determine the engine's air mass flow rate, which in turn
determines the required fuel metering for optimum combustion.
The pressure measurement comes from the diaphragm deforming or actuation force. There
are many positions in car that need to measure the pressure. For example: Intake manifold

The MAP sensor is a pressure sensor chip which puts out a voltage proportional to engine
vacuum, from zero to 5 volts. The computer uses the voltage to decide if the throttle is open and
how far, so it can adjust the fuel mixture.
When the engine is not running-IG switch is ON ' use vacuum gun to simulate vacuum situation,
connect vacuum gun to MAP vacuum input pin. When vacuum situation changes, voltage will
change as well.
When engine is running - observe the signal from idle speed to acceleration gradually.

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Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS)

A wheel speed sensor or vehicle speed sensor (VSS) is a type of tachometer. It is a sender
device used for reading the speed of a vehicle's wheel rotation. It usually consists of a toothed
ring and pickup.

The Vehicle Speed sensor or VSS measures transmission/ transaxle output or wheel speed. The
ECM uses this information to modify engine functions such as ignition timing, AF ratio,
transmission shift points, and to initiate diagnostic routines.
The Vehicle Speed sensor is typically located at the transmission or transaxle.

The speed sensor sends a signal to the ECU from the wheels, how many revolutions a minute
that it is rotating and the ECU makes the computations for how fast the car is travelling and the
ECU takes this along with other values from other sensors and sets the engine management

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Transmission gear selector position (TGSP) sensor

In an automatic transmission system, a position sensor provides digital and analog output
indications of the sensed position of a manually operated transmission gear shift lever. Electrical
contacts within the sensor are configured to minimize wear and corrosion by eliminating
electrical continuity in the switching elements when the gear shift lever is in the Drive position.
In an automatic transmission, there are several settings of the gear shift position lever that are
manually controlled and selected by the vehicle operator.

The first position is called "Park" position in which the engine may be started and run, but is
physically prevented from driving the wheels of the vehicles. In addition, when the transmission
is in the Park position, at least the drive wheel is in a locked position and held so by the
transmission gearing. A "Reverse" position is adjacent to the Park position and when placed in
the Reverse position the transmission is configured so that the engine can transfer power to the
drive wheel and cause the vehicle to move in the reverse direction. A "Neutral" position is
adjacent to the Reverse position and allows free wheeling of the drive wheel separate from the
propulsion energy offered by the engine. A "Driver" position is adjacent to the Neutral position
and configures the transmission to provide propulsion power from the engine to rotate the drive

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wheel in the forward direction through a sequence of gears. The actual selection of gears is
controlled by the speed of the vehicle, engine torque and power loads. Other forward gear
positions which limit the gear ratio present between the engine and the drive wheel such as
"Second" or "2" and "First" or "1" are also provided. These gears positions are collectively
represented as "Low" or "L". This position range is commonly referred to as the "PRNDL"
sensor When electrical contacts are used to sense the position of the gear shift levers it has been
found that electrical contacts in the Drive position are most susceptible to corrosion, pitting and
general deterioration because of the high use occurrence. When corrosion or pitting occurs, it is
possible that the sequence of contacts, if read digitally, will provide erroneous codes. This may
cause an associated transmission controller or a display device to provide erroneous information
to either the transmission or the operator

Methanol sensor

In the move towards cleaner exhausts, one idea is to use mixed fuels. Methanol is one potential
fuel that can be mixed with petrol. The problem is that petrol has a different stoichiometric air
requirement to methanol. An engine management system can be set for either fuel or a mixture
of the fuels. However, the problem with mixing is that the ratio will vary. A special sensor is
needed to determine the proportion of methanol, and once fitted this sensor will make it possible
to operate the vehicle on any mixture of petrol and methanol. The methanol sensor (Figure 2.67)
is based on the dielectric principle. The measuring cell is a capacitor filled with fuel and the
methanol content is calculated from its capacitance. Two further measurements are taken – the
temperature of the fuel and its conductance. These correction factors ensure cross-sensitivity (a
kind of double checking) and the measurement error is therefore very low. The sensor can be
fitted to the fuel line so the data it provides to the ECU are current and reliable. The control unit
can then adapt the fuelling strategy to the fuel mix currently in use. Some further development is
taking place but this sensor looks set to play a major part in allowing the use of alternative fuels
in the near future.

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Rain Sensor & Rain sensing wiper

Automotive rain sensors detect rain falling on the windshield of a vehicle. One of the more
common rain sensor implementations employs an infrared light that is beamed at a 45-degree
angle onto the windshield from inside the car. If the glass is wet, less light makes it back to the
sensor, and the wipers turn on.

Rain sensors are used to switch on wipers automatically. Most work on the principle of reflected
light. The device is fitted inside the windscreen and light from an LED is reflected back from the
outer surface of the glass. The amount of light reflected changes if the screen is wet, even with a
few drops of rain.

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Transducer: A substance or device that converts input energy of one form into output
energy of another. In short A transducer is any device which converts one form of energy
into another.

Basic Concepts of Transducers

There are many variables which affect our everyday lives: speed of a car, velocity of the wind,
temperature of the oven, light level in the room. In most situations these variables are continuously
monitored. It is these variables that are the feedback used to control the speed of a car, oven
temperatures, and light levels. The elements that sense these variables and convert them to a different
output energy are transducers. This is an energy conversion – temperature (heat energy) to voltage
(electrical energy).In summary, a transducer is a substance or a device that converts an input energy into
a different output energy. Because of this broad definition, there are many devices that can be defined as
transducers. Such devices come in many varieties converting several different types of energies.
Following is a discussion of some of the more common types of transducers.


Electromechanical transducers are transducers that either convert electrical to mechanical energy or
motion, or convert mechanical movement such as deformation or stress into electrical energy.

Electromechanical Transducers – (Some are also called actuators)

 Strain gauge – Converts the deformation (strain) of an object into a change in electrical resistance

 Galvanometer – Converts the electric current of a coil in a magnetic field into movement

 Generator – Converts mechanical energy (motion) into electrical energy.

 Motor – Converts electrical energy into mechanical energy (graphic below)

 Micro accelerometer – Converts motion or mechanical energy to electrical energy

 Micro gyroscope – Converts rotation or tilt (movement) to electrical energy

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• The potentiometer are used for voltage division. They consist of a resistive element provided with
a sliding contact. The sliding contact is called as wiper.

• The contact motion may be linear or rotational or combination of the two. The combinational
potentiometer have their resistive element in helix form and are called heli pots.

• Fig shows a linear pot and a rotary pot.

• There are number of applications of the potentiometer or pots, of these one of the most common
applications is the measurement of displacement. To measure the displacement of the body, this
body, which is moving, is connected to the sliding element of the potentiometer.
• As the body moves, the position of the slider located on the potentiometer also changes so the
resistance between the fixed point and the slider changes. Due to this the voltage Vo across these
points also changes. The change in voltage or the resistance is proportional to the change in the
displacement of the body. Thus the voltage change indicates the displacement of the body. The
potentiometer can be used for the measurement of translational as well as well rotational
displacement. Since these potentiometers work on the principle of resistance, they are also called
as the resistive potentiometers.


• In inductive transduction, the measurand is converted into a change in the self inductance of a
single coil. It is achieved by displacing the core of the coil that is attached to a mechanical
sensing element

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• Fig shows a variable reluctance inductive transducer.

• As shown in fig the coil is wound on the ferromagnetic iron. The target and core are not in direct
contact with each other. They are separated by an air gap.

• The displacement has to be measured is applied to the ferromagnetic core

• The reluctance of the magnetic path is found by the size of the air gap.

• The self inductance of coil is given by

• L = N2 / R = N2 / Ri + Ra

• N : number of turns, R : reluctance of coil, Ri : reluctance of iron path, Ra : reluctance of air gap,
The reluctance of iron path is negligible

• L = N2 / Ra

• Ra = la / μoA

• Therefore L œ 1 / la i.e. self inductance of the coil is inversely proportional to the air gap la.

• When the target is near the core, the length is small. Hence the self inductance is large. But when
the target is away from the core, the length is large. So reluctance is also large. This result in
decrease in self inductance i.e. small self inductance.

• Thus inductance is function of the distance of the target from the core. Displacement changes
with the length of the air gap, the self inductance is a function of the displace


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• In capacitive transduction transducers the measurand is converted to a change in the capacitance.
• A typical capacitor is comprised of two parallel plates of conducting material separated by an
electrical insulating material called a dielectric. The plates and the dielectric may be either
flattened or rolled.
• The purpose of the dielectric is to help the two parallel plates maintain their stored electrical

The relationship between the capacitance and the size of capacitor plate, amount of plate
separation, and the dielectric is given by
C = ε0 εr A / d
d is the separation distance of plates (m)
C is the capacitance (F, Farad)
ε0 : absolute permittivity of vacuum
εr : relative permittivity
A is the effective (overlapping) area of capacitor plates (m2)


A piezoelectric transducer is a device that transforms one type of energy to another by taking advantage
of the piezoelectric properties of certain crystals or other materials. When a piezoelectric material is
subjected to stress or force, it generates an electrical potential or voltage proportional to the magnitude of
the force. This makes this type of transducer ideal as a converter of mechanical energy or force into
electric potential.

The high sensitivity of piezoelectric transducers makes them useful in microphones, where they convert
sound pressure into electric voltage, in precision balances, in accelerometers and motion detectors, and as
generators and detectors of ultrasound. They are also used in non-destructive testing, in the generation of
high voltages, and in many other applications requiring the precise sensing of motion or force.

The piezoelectric effect also works in reverse, in that a voltage applied to a piezoelectric material will
cause that material to bend, stretch, or otherwise deform. This deformation is usually very slight and
proportional to the voltage applied, and so the reverse effect offers a method of precision movement on
the micro scale. A transducer may, therefore, be used as an actuator for the exact adjustment of fine
optical instruments, lasers, and atomic force microscopes.

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A transducer that generates an electric output corresponding to the incident light is called photoelectric

A photoelectric sensor, or photo eye, is a device used to detect the distance, absence, or presence of an
object by using a light transmitter, often infrared, and a photoelectric receiver. They are used extensively
in industrial manufacturing. There are three different functional types: opposed (through beam), retro-
reflective, and proximity-sensing (diffused).

Photoelectric transducers are divided into two groups according to their applications: 1) a photo-
detector that handles light signals, and 2) a photovoltaic power system such as a solar battery that
responds to light energy. In the former case, sensitivity and response speed are important, while
in the latter case, energy conversion efficiency is important. Classified by their operating
principles, photoelectric transducers can be divided into a photovoltaic type, typified by
photodiodes and solar batteries, and a photo-conductive type, typified by photo-conductive cells
and image pick-up tubes.

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