Making Vehicles Smart with Embedded Computers
Posted on August 1, 2020
This is the age of smart technologies. Smart cities, smart homes, even smart wearable devices. Why not smart vehicles?
Between self-driving cars of the far future and the analog vehicles of the past, there is a whole range of technologies that can be integrated into vehicles to make them smarter. Things such as predictive maintenance alerts, emission control, and automatic emergency braking are all possible today.
How? Let’s find out.
What are In-Vehicle Computer Systems?
Vehicles traditionally have very little by the way of electronics. From the steering wheel to the engine, most of the framework is mechanical in nature.
But modern vehicles are changing. Recently launched electric and hybrid vehicles tend to have an electronic interface with most of their subsystems, from ignition to brakes. In addition, sensors can be installed (if not already present) in various parts of the vehicle to obtain additional information about its state.
In-vehicle computer systems can be installed in such vehicles to regulate and even control aspects of its functioning.
A typical system consists of a sturdy, rugged embedded computer linked with a network of sensors, apart from the control circuits of the vehicle itself. Depending on needs it can be customized to take an active or a passive role in driving; simply assisting the driver with latest telemetrics, or taking control in emergency situations to prevent accidents.
Why Should you Outfit your Vehicles with In-Vehicle Systems?
When people think of computers in vehicles, they think of self-driving cars. But there are many applications of Vehicle Control Units (VCUs) that go beyond replacing the person behind the wheel to rather making their job easier.
The first, and probably the most important reason is safety.
Autonomous Braking System (ABS) is a relatively new technology that enables a vehicle to apply brakes on imminent collision – even if the driver fails to react in time. This is made possible by using radar to measure the distances of nearby objects, and a control unit to apply the brakes when obstacles approach too quickly.
With an ever-rising number of vehicles on the road and spiraling accidents, measures such as these are essential in every vehicle. Furthermore, governments across the world are introducing regulations mandating automated safety features in all vehicles, both private and commercial.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a more complex piece of technology that reduces skidding and loss of traction in vehicles. The in-vehicle system monitors the metrics of the vehicle with a network of sensors, applying course corrections whenever it detects the vehicle veering out of control.
If implemented with the proper hardware and software, it can reduce chances of accidents significantly.
The second major factor driving the adoption of in-vehicle systems is efficiency.
Managing a fleet of commercial vehicles is no easy task. Assigning routes, calculating average trip times, and planning things out to minimize idle time is part and parcel of daily operations of any commercial fleet.
In-vehicle computer systems can streamline the process by providing real-time updates on the status of the vehicle. By establishing a line of real-time communication between the vehicles and the control hub, these systems can greatly optimize fleet management techniques.
Lastly, in-vehicle systems help ensure timely maintenance.
Thanks to the more stringent emission norms these days, it has become more important than ever to carry out regular maintenance. Without any advanced tools, it can be difficult to judge when a vehicle needs to be looked at.
Enter in-vehicle computer systems.
These systems can provide detailed diagnostics of a vehicle’s critical components, alerting the driver when the emissions begin exceeding the safe limit. Also, due to the gains in efficiency by employing in-vehicle computer systems, vehicles can go on longer without needing maintenance, driving down operating costs and boosting profits.
Are Embedded Computers the Right Choice for In-Vehicle Systems?
Normal box computers are not particularly durable. Vehicles – especially commercial vehicles – are subject to harsh temperatures and jarring impacts, not to mention dust and pollutants. Clearly, putting just any computing device on a vehicle isn’t going to cut.
Fanless, rugged embedded computers are made to survive in exactly these kinds of conditions. With their built-in cooling and superior durability, these computers serve well as in-vehicle systems.
Embedded computing systems also have a small energy footprint, not putting and undue strain on the vehicle’s limited electric power, while also minimizing the heat produced.
These computers are powerful enough to handle the complex calculations needed in systems such as the ABS or the ESC, and can even incorporate GPU based peripherals for a visual representation of the vehicle’s statistics in real-time.
Recently there has also been a surge in demand for camera-based surveillance systems to be installed in commercial vehicles such as public transport. Embedded computers can easily handle the video processing needed for such installations as well.