PORTLAND, Ore. ó The next generation of car automation will combine passive
microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors with active actuators that will
increasingly "drive" cars in hazardous situations to avoid accidents, experts
"Death rates in auto accidents have drastically lowered in recent years by
virtue of safer car construction," said Steve Nelson, Freescale Semiconductor's
director of global automotive marketing. "But now that active systems are being
implemented, how much control will the consumer allow the car to take over?"
According to panelists at a Freescale event in Orlando, Fla., this week, most
drivers want to retain control of their vehicle despite the success of current
traction control systems that compensate for certain driver-errors during skids.
As a result, fully autonomous navigation systems won't appear anytime soon
for two reasons: drivers need to know that they are in control and unsolved
methods for transferring control back to the driver after an incident.
The short-term solution, according to Freescale's Demetre Kondylis, is
zero-tolerance for common failure modes that could defeat mandated redundancy in
automotive systems. This can be accomplished by embracing the convergence of
passive sensing and active actuation of responses in future safety systems
designed to prevent accidents.
"We must surpass systems like those that use MEMS sensors to detect crash and
deploy airbags," said Kondylis. "For instance, radar can be used to anticipate a
crash and respond by taking countermeasures that either prevent or at least
This convergence of passive and active safety system, according to panelists,
will employ multiple MEMS sensors, including accelerometers, gyroscopes and
"We are now establishing differentiated implementations of military
technologies that can be made more affordable for civilian systems," said
Kondylis. One possibility is "using infrared systems that are not only cheaper,
but which work even in bad weather compared to military phased-array radars," he
said. However, much computing power will be needed to field these converged auto