In the recent years, the car industry has been supported by a significant technological development moved by the needs of providing safer and comfortable cars. Many kinds of car and tracks travel every day on our road network. Modern cars are nowadays equipped by many different sensors and their usage is mostly driven by different factors, like e.g. legislation, safety, weight reduction, comfort, and convenience. In general, their application in the future vehicles is even widening due to miniaturization, cost reduction, increased functionality, and improved quality.
Accelerometers can be also found and these are mainly used in two application areas: impact detection, and motion measurements. Their usage was initially driven by the diffusion of passive safety systems (in particular, airbags and seatbelt tensioners). Moreover, they also found a wide application range in other sectors, like e.g. vehicle dynamics control systems, antilock braking systems, anti-theft systems, active suspension control, and headlight leveling. Pressure sensors have also numerous automotive applications. The main one is the air intake control as well as measuring the pressure in several components of the car.
Temperature is measured in several zones of modern vehicles. In general, temperature sensors are required for powertrain performance control, diagnostic, emission control systems, and comfort equipment. Angular and linear position sensors are used to measure throttle valve angle, pedal angle or position, seat position, gear lever position, steering angle, mirror adjustment, and light adjustment to name a few. Therefore, they can be considered as the basis for the actual and future drive-by-wire systems, where pure hydraulic/mechanical control is replaced by electronic control. Several other sensors are mounted on modern vehicles or will enter the market within the next few years (e.g., gas sensors for air quality, telemetric sensors, biometric sensors for driver identification, electric current sensors, rain sensors, light sensors,…). Moreover, their wide diffusion implies to manage them as cooperative and complex distributed systems, instead of considering them as independent parts of more ordinary systems. The huge amount of information, coming from the different sensors, is normally reduced by using sensor fusion and virtual sensors techniques.
All the sensors are organized in a wireless sensor network (WSN) able to collect the acquired measurements and making them available to a central unit through an interface to the traditional CAN bus, eventually after the application of data fusion algorithms on part of them. The collected data are then used to assist the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) in detecting dangerous situations linked to the driver behavior but also due to the road characteristics and conditions.
By making cars data georeferenced and accessible, it is expected that these data represent a very significant population also from a road prospective. In fact, road conditions and respective measures have been developed to quantify the expected level of stress and risk on road users.
In general, the technological development in applied in different sectors has given the opportunity to meet all the following fundamental needs:
– have wireless access to these data type,
– use very powerful computers capable to handle big data,
– use machine learning to develop complex models,
– have a fleet of vehicles, with the same characteristics, equipped with many different sensors;
Any future development in applied technology on vehicles, such as self-driven vehicles, might represent a valid and consistent source of new road information.