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Safety & Security

MEMS accelerometer to tackle vehicle safety issues

January 27, 2011 | Matthieu Rezé | 222901346
MEMS accelerometer to tackle vehicle safety issues The next generation of active safety systems will require a range of additional sensors in order to measure the vehicle dynamics. MEMS devices play a dominant role in this context. The article describes requirements, technology and applications of the latest MEMS sensor generation.
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End of 2010 should have seen European road fatalities reduced by half compared to 2001. While this very challenging goal set back in 2003 by the European Commission will not be reached, estimated average reduction in the EU-27 member states is around 40%. All fatalities and injuries are down, reflecting trends observed in other Western nations, including the recently published findings from the United-States.

The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) disclosed that 2009 have seen the lowest number of death since 1950. These achievements were possible by focusing on several factors like legislation, road infrastructure and driver behavior but more importantly on improving overall vehicle safety. Passive restraint systems like seatbelts and airbags did play an important role in the last decades helping to save thousands of lives. Nowadays, many governments are ready to go even further and mandate programs shifting the focus from passive to active safety. Between 2011 and 2020, a new range of active safety systems to prevent crash to happen will be introduced including vehicle's Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

The ESC is an additional improvement to the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and traction control system (TCS). Its basic function is to stabilize the vehicle when it starts to skid by applying differential braking force to individual wheels and reducing engine torque. This automatic reaction is engineered for improved vehicle stability, especially during severe cornering and on low-friction road surfaces, by helping to reduce over-steering and under-steering. Additional sensors must be added to the ABS system in order to implement ESP functionality which includes a steering wheel angle sensor, a yaw rate sensor and a low g acceleration sensor that measure the vehicle dynamic response. This, obviously, creates new opportunities for MEMS sensor manufacturers like Freescale, who was ranked by iSuppli as the first supplier of automotive MEMS accelerometers in 2009.

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