Sensors are among the first products that could easily share their capability among different systems thanks to networking. While sensor suppliers provide the sensors, OEMs and tier one customers utilize the capability in more than one system, says John McGowan, director of safety electronics for Infineon North America.
“Sometimes they’ll have us add some additional functionality to the sensor to make it optimal,” McGowan says. “For example, an extra output or something that makes it easier to use in two different places, or even expand the range of measurement.”
An example of changing the sensor for more than one use is the TLE4942 ABS speed sensor. “With the ABS system, you’re only looking for the wheel to go one way. With the TLE4942, you get a directional output,” explains McGowan.
Using the additional information, a parking assist system can help the driver parallel park. The directional input from the ABS sensor is required to integrate that system. “From our standpoint, we migrated from a one-directional system to a two-directional system,” says McGowan. “That sensor is now utilized for two different systems.”
Customers are still asking for ways that they can take advantage of a single sensor. “The likelihood of these sensors getting condensed and combined is increasing,” says Jeff Kelley, market development manager for safety electronics, Infineon North America.
Another example of synergy comes from the electronic stability control (ESC) and airbag systems. Earlier ESC systems had a sensor cluster separate from the brake head. The cluster was mounted in the center tunnel of the vehicle close to the airbag controls. “It turned out that that sensor deck was in many ways very similar to what was being done in the airbag system next door, less one or two sensors,” says Kelley.
Realizing the duplication of hardware and additional space taken in prime real estate in the vehicles, the two system teams collaborated to share the data from some sensors. While one system team may want exclusive rights to a sensor and be reluctant to share it, by sharing the sensor both systems and the OEM save money. “There’s a whole series of good things that happen by combining those two systems,” says Kelley.
By sharing the data from the sensors, the suppliers solved both cost and prime space problems. “That’s becoming a standard in the industry that was unimaginable even three or four years ago,” says Kelley.