The pioneer of industrial revolution

How have electronics transformed the automotive industry?

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Since the inception of automobiles, when German inventor Carl Benz patented his Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the automotive industry has gone through many transformations. Vehicles have become stronger and more energy efficient. And the first time when electronics get introduced to cars was in 1930 when Motorola started to manufacture radios for cars.

Radios are no longer so popular today, but electronic systems have become increasingly important in the automotive industry over the years.

Do you know you are paying at least 30% for the electronics when you get a new car?

In the 1950s, electronics only take up around 1% of the value of an automobile. Fast forward to 2010, the value of electronics in an automobile has gone up to around 30%.

Thanks to electronics, our cars have never been safer, easier, more comfortable and more fun to drive. And there are mainly 6 categories:

1. Engine electronics

ECU (engine control unit) is one of the most demanding electronic parts of a vehicle because the engine itself is a very fast and complex machine. Of all the electronics in a car, the computing power of ECU is the highest, typically with a 32-bit processor. An ECU processes all the sensor signals of pressure, temperature, flow, engine speed, oxygen level, and more of the engine, and its output is connected to different actuators for the throttle valve, EGR valve, fuel injector and more. There are about 20 to 30 actuators in total.

2. Transmission electronics

These electronics control the transmission system, mainly the shifting of gears to adjust the torque to protect the engine. The ECU always communicate with the transmission electronics for their operation.

3. Chassis electronics

The chassis system monitors and controls a range of parameters regarding driving and road conditions:

  • ABS – Anti-lock Braking System
  • ASR / TCS – Anti Slip Regulation / Traction Control System
  • BAS – Brake Assist
  • EBD – Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
  • EDC – Electronic Damper Control
  • EDS – Electronic Differential Slippery
  • ESP – Electronic Stability Program
  • ETS – Enhanced Traction System
  • PA – Parking Assistance

4. Passive safety

These systems are always ready to act to ensure the safety of the driver and passengers. The electronics are usually used to control airbags, emergency brakes (EBA/BAS), etc.

5. Drive assistance

Here the electronics may assist driving with lane assist systems, speed control, blind spot detection, parking assist system, adaptive cruise control system and pre-collision assist.

6. Passenger comfort

In terms of passenger comfort, there are automatic climate controls, electronic seat adjustment with memory, automatic wipers and automatic cooling systems.

PCB in automotive

When it comes to electronics, PCB (Printed Circuit board) is one thing that we cannot leave out as it is a complex circuit system that is majorly used in cars/trucks to control most of the electronic operations today.

In the past, PCBs are only used for headlights, wipers, and many other basic applications, but with today’s technological advancement, PCBs are adopted in every feature and application of vehicles in order to enable the driving experience to be safer and easier.

Moreover, automotive manufacturing companies are after flex-rigid, HDI type of printed circuit board for various applications owing to their ability to withstand extreme temperatures and vibrations. Furthermore, many EMS (electronics manufacturing service) providers are taking an active step to grow their businesses in this market. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global automotive PCB market size was USD 5.90 billion in 2020.

Electronics in the automotive industry moving forward

With the trend of autonomous driving in the automotive industry, automotive software and IT technologies will be more advanced than ever, as is the requirement for hardware technologies. For these couple decades, electronics have been controlling engine, transmission system and chassis, and they will control the whole vehicle in the future, so there will be more electronics and PCBs in the cars, and the ICs and PCBs have to be more complex and stronger to run the automotive systems that are becoming more powerful and having more autonomy!

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