IEEE SENSORS JOURNAL, VOL. 1, NO. 4, DECEMBER 2001
Overview of Automotive Sensors
William J. Fleming
Abstract—An up-to-date review paper on automotive sensors is presented. Attention is focused on sensors used in production automotive systems. The primary sensor technologies in use today are reviewed and are classified according to their three major areas ofautomotive systems application–powertrain, chassis, and body. This subject is extensive. As described in this paper, for use in automotive systems, there are six types of rotational motion sensors, four types of pressure sensors, five types of position sensors, and three types of temperature sensors. Additionally, two types of mass air flow sensors, five types of exhaust gas oxygen sensors, one type of engine knock sensor, four types of linear acceleration sensors, four types of angular-rate sensors, four types of occupant comfort/convenience sensors, two types of near-distance obstacle detection sensors, four types of far-distance obstacle detection sensors, and and ten types of emerging, state-of the-art, sensors technologies are identified. Index Terms—Acceleration sensors, angular rate sensors,
automotive body sensors, automotive chassis sensors, automotive powertrain sensors, obstacle detection sensors, position sensors, pressure sensors, review paper, rotational motion sensors, state-of-the-art sensors.
ENSORS are essential components of automotive electronic control systems. Sensors are defined as  “devices that transform (or transduce) physical quantities such as
pressure or acceleration (called measurands) into output
signals (usually electrical) that serve as inputs for control systems.” It wasn’t that long ago that the primary automotive sensors were discrete devices used to measure oil pressure,
fuel level, coolant temperature, etc. Starting in the late 1970s, microprocessor-based automotive engine control modules
were phased in to satisfy federal emissions regulations. These systems required new sensors such as MAP (manifold absolute
pressure), air temperature, and exhaust-gas stoichiometric
air-fuel-ratio operating point sensors. The need for sensors is evolving and is progressively growing. For example, in engine control applications, the number of sensors used will increase from approximately ten in 1995, to more than thirty in 2010, as predicted in .
Automotive engineers are challenged by a multitude of
stringent requirements. For example, automotive sensors
typically must have combined/total error less than 3 % over
their entire range of operating temperature and measurand
change, including all measurement errors due to nonlinearity, Manuscript received September 8, 2000; revised November 2, 2001. This work was supported by Tom Vos, Director, Systems Technology, Occupant Safety Systems, Washington, MI. The associate editor coordinating the review of this paper and approving it for publication was Dr. Gerard L. Cote. W. J. Fleming is with Systems Technology, TRW Occupant Safety Systems, Washington, MI 48094 USA (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Publisher Item Identifier S 1530-437X(01)11158-9.
hysteresis, temperature sensitivity and repeatability. Moreover, even though hundreds of thousands of the sensors may be
manufactured, calibrations of each sensor must be interchangeable within 1 percent. Automotive environmental operating requirements are also very severe, with temperatures of 40
to 125 C (engine compartment), vibration sweeps up to
10 g for 30 h, drops onto concrete floor (to simulate assembly mishaps), electromagnetic interference and compatibility, and so on. When purchased in high volume for automotive use, cost is also always a major concern. Mature sensors (e.g., pressure types) are currently sold in large-quantities (greater than one million units annually) at a low cost of less than $3 (US) per sensor (exact cost is dependent on application constraints and sales volume),...