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So, hello guys, and welcome back to the Gettobyte Automotive Technology series of blogs. In today’s blog, we are going to dig into different electrical/electronic sub-systems used in Automotive.

The automotive industry is today the sixth largest economy in the world, producing around 70 million cars every year and making an important contribution to government revenues all around the world. 

Transition of Mechanical Systems of car to Semiconductor Systems

Automotive Vehicles are no longer mechanical systems, they are one of the largest consumers of Semiconductor chips like microcontrollers, microprocessors, ASIC’s, Integrated Circuits, embedded hardware, and Software solution around these semiconductor chips. 

Infact at a time in a modern automotive vehicle there are more than 1000’s of Integrated Circuits and more then 1 lakh lines of code running in vehicles. Indeed, since then, the sector of embedded electronics, and more precisely embedded software, has been increasing at an annual rate of 10% in automotive industry.

Rise of use of Semiconductor chips in cars

Electronic technology has made great strides and nowadays the quality of electronic components—performance, robustness, and reliability—enables use of them even for critical systems. At the same time, the decreasing cost of electronic technology allows them to be used to support any function in a car. Furthermore, in the last decade, several automotive-embedded networks such as local interconnect networks (LIN), Controlled Area Network (CAN), TTP (Time-Triggered Protocol), FlexRay and Ethernet were developed.

Multimedia and telematic applications in cars are increasing rapidly due to consumer pressure; a vehicle currently includes electronic equipment like hand-free phones, audio/radio devices, and navigation systems. For the passengers, a lot of entertainment devices, such as video equipment and communication with the outside world are also available. These kinds of applications have little to do with the vehicle’s operation itself; nevertheless, they increase significantly as part of the software included in a car.

Examples of these facts:

  • In 2004, the embedded electronic system of a Volkswagen Phaeton was composed of more than 10,000 electrical devices, 61 microprocessors, 3 controller area networks (CAN) that support the exchanges of 2500 pieces of data, several subnetworks, and one multimedia bus.

In the Volvo S, inter-car network support the communication between the microprocessors controlling the mirrors and controlling the doors, for example, the position of the mirrors is automatically controlled according to the sense of the near-by vehicle and the volume of the radio is adjusted to the vehicle speed, information provided, by the antilock braking system (ABS) controller.

  • In a recent Cadillac, when an accident causes an airbag to inflate, its microcontroller emits a signal to the embedded global positioning system (GPS) receiver that then communicates with the cell phone, making it possible to give the vehicle’s position to the rescue service.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more that could illustrate this very large growth of embedded electronic systems in modern vehicles. Now in This blog, we are going to dip deeper into these electronics sub-systems in an automotive vehicle.

What are functional domains in Automotive?

Functional Domains in Automotive

To get a hierarchical understanding of the electronics used in a car, one can divide the car into different parts. These parts are basically in the car termed as Domains.

According to the European ITEA EAST-EEA project, a domain is defined as, a sphere of knowledge, influence, and activity in which one or more systems are to be dealt with (e.g., are to be built). The term domain can be used to group mechanical and electronic systems. A vehicle domain describes the grouping of systems and functions in a vehicle that can be assigned to individual areas.

Historically, there are 5 domains in automotive:

Powertrain Domain
Powertrain: is related to the system that participates in the longitudinal propulsion of the vehicle, including engine, transmission, and all subsidiary components.
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Chassis Domain
Chassis: The chassis domain refers to the four wheels and their relative position and movement in this domain, the systems are mainly steering and braking.
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Body Domain
Body Domain: includes the entities that do not belong to the vehicle dynamics, but to the car users such as Airbags, wipers, lighting, window lifter, air conditioning, seat equipment, etc
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HMI Domain
HMI Domain: includes the equipment allowing information exchange between electronic systems and drivers (displays and switches).
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Telematic Domain
Telematic Domain: is related to components allowing information exchange between the vehicle and the outside world (radio, navigation system, Internet access, payment).
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From one domain to another, electronic systems often have very different features. For example, the powertrain and chassis domains both exhibit hard real-time constraints and a need for high computation power. The telematic domain presents requirements for high data throughput. However, the hardware architecture in the chassis domain is more widely distributed in the vehicle. From this standpoint, the technological solutions in each domain used are very different, for example, the communication networks, the design techniques, and the verification of the embedded software are different for each domain.

These 5 domains, cover all the electronic/electrical sub-systems of the car. You can think of any sub-system that you can think of, and it will fall in one of the above domains specified. Let’s just deep dive into each of these domains to understand which electrical sub-systems come in which domain.

Different types of functional domain in Automotive

To understand each of the domains, we will broadly be going to answer 3 questions:

PowerTrain Domain:

Sensors Used in Powertrain Domain

Powertrain Pressure Sensor
Used to measure pressure of Engine Oil, pipe of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), barometric pressure sensor for recording changes in atmospheric pressure for fuel delivery and ignition timing strategies into the engine
Powertrain temperature sensor
These sensors are used for measuring temperature of manifold air, Engine coolant, Transmission Oil, Engine Oil and boost air.
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Powertrain Position Sensor
These sensors measure speed, angle, velocity and on/off positions in critical operations such as Electric Power Steering, Traction inverters, automatic transmissions and anti-lock braking systems.
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Powertrain Speed Sensors
Transmission Input/output sensors which measure rotation speed of input shaft and vehicle speed sensors
Other sensors like
Knock Sensor, Fuel Level Sensors, Mass Air Flow Sensors, Engine Oil Condition Sensors
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Chassis Domain :

Sensors Used in Chassis Domain

Chassis Acceleration Sensor
This sensor determine the acceleration of the body and wheels in the direction of vehicle vertical axis
Inertial Measurement Unit
Inertial sensor helps assess the state of motion of automobiles and perform a critical role in chassis control and safety
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Yaw rate and lateral acceleration sensor
Is a gyroscopic device that measures a vehicle yaw rate, its anular velocity around its vertical axis
Chassis Position sensor
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Wheel Speed sensor used in ABS
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The steering angle sensor used in ESP
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Torque Sensors for 4WD
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Body Domain

Solar and Ambient light sensors
Solar and Ambient light sensors for car interior
Rain Light Humidity Temperature
Rain Light Humidity Temperature above the front mirror to on wipers
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Tailgate Speed and Direction sensor
Tailgate Speed and Direction sensor
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Stepper/Servo motors
Stepper/Servo motors for windows/wipers/seats
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DC Motors
DC motors in power seats, power windows
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Optical sensor
Optical sensor for Auto-dimming rearview mirror and side mirrors
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2.4 ghz RF transceiver IC’s
2.4 ghz RF transceiver IC’s for Remote keyless entry(RKE) and passive entry passive start systems(PEPS)
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Heating/ventilation and Air conditioning systems
Heating/ventilation and Air conditioning systems for comfort and cozyness in vehicle
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Gesture Sensor
Gesture sensors used to open the truck by just leg/hands gesture
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Telematic and HMI

IoT Modules
IoT modules like: Wifi, BLE, GSM, NB-IoT and 2.4 ghz modules
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Display Screens
Touch Screen Displays, OLED and LCD displays on car dashboards
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Tracking devices
GPS modules, BLE beacons, LORA modules
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In-Car Networks
Use of CAN, LIN, FlexRay, SAI-J2602, Ethernet, Gateways.
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So, you can see that in a single vehicle how large number of electronic sub-systems are there and all these electronic sub-systems can be divided into above specified 5 domains. This blog must have given you good amount of understanding that what all electronic sub-systems are there in a vehicle and which electronic sub-system comes under which part of vehicle. 

Now further to learn and grow, it is highly recommended to explore what kind of DIY projects then can make on their own for these domains of the vehicle.

DIY Projects for functional systems in car

Okay, so now we have gotten to know about the functional domain in the car, now let’s get into some practical projects and hands-on activity concentric to mimicking different automotive electronic sub-systems of different domains. As always, one of the first things that we would need to make automotive electronic sub-systems is a Microcontroller or Microprocessor. And to use the Microcontroller/Microprocessor, we will need a development board around it.

ElecronicsV2 is an Automotive Development board based on NXP Semiconductors S32K144 Microcontroller. Using this Development board, various electronic sub-systems related to Powertrain and Body Domain can be made. 

ElecronicsV2 board is ideal for ECUs that are used in the Powertrain and Body domain. ECU is a Electronic Control Unit, which has a microcontroller/microprocessor central to it.

ElecronicsV2 board for Powertrain and Body Control Domian.

Powertrain Applications:

Powertrain Domain in Automotive

When it comes to understanding your vehicle, the powertrain stands out as the beating heart of the entire machine. In a vehicle, the powertrain comprises the main components that generate power and deliver that power to the road surface. The term “powertrain” encompasses a series of components working together to ensure your car moves efficiently and reliably.

This series of components in powertrain, consist of sensors like:

Powertrain Motor Driver’s for Induction, Permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM), Switched Reluctance motor (SRM) or Brushless Direct Current (BLDC) and Brushed Direct Current (BDC) motors.  These motors are the ones which moves our vehicle ahead and put them into motion. E.G: 

Powertrain Pressure Sensor to measure pressure of engine oil, pressure of atmosphere for fuel delivery and give important readings related to health of Engine which is used by various control system algorithms running in ECU’s of Powertrain domain.

Powertrain Temperature sensor for measuring temperature of engine coolant, Transmission and Engine Oil, boost and manifold air. These readings are very important to ensure the proper function of Powertrain systems, as over heating or extreme low temperature readings can cause unwanted incidents.

Powertrain Speed sensor for measuring rotation speed of engine shaft and vehicle speed. From these sensors, readings are given to Infotainment to show the speed of the vehicle to passsengers.

And other miscellaneous sensors like Knock sensor, fuel level sensor, Mass Air flow sensors, Engine Oil Condition sensors and etc.

ElecronicsV2 board has the support of MATLAB Simulink for developing motor control applications that fall under powertrain applications. All these sensors listed above can be interfaced with ElecronicsV2 board, by using advanced ADC and Timer peripherals present in S32K144 Microcontroller.  It also features enhanced DMA and Interrupts for real-time and critical use cases in the powertrain domain. 

ElecroniscV2 features for Powertrain Applications


How to use Timer Peripheral in ElecronicsV2 Board
How to use ADC Peripheral in ElecronicsV2 Board

Body Control Applications:

Body Domain in Automotive

When it comes to providing comfort to passengers and having luxury in car. It’s the Body Control Domain sub-systems which come into picture.

Sensors like:

Solar and Ambient light sensors for car interiors. 

Rain light humidity temperature sensor above the front mirror to ON the wipers automatically depending on weather conditions.

Stepper/Servo/DC motor and motor drivers for windows, wipers and seat

Optical sensor for auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors.

GEsture sensor to open the Truck by hand or leg

2.4 GHZ RF Transceiver IC’s for remote keyless entry(RKE) and passive entry passive start(PEPS) system.

ElecronicsV2 board supports ISELED technology. This technology is used for next-generation smart LED lighting systems mainly for automotive interior lightning. All the sensors/actuators/modules which are used in Body Control Domain can be connected to ElecronicsV2 using I2C, SPI, UART, ADC and PWM peripherals of S32K144 MCU

Using these peripheral various small nodes in the car can be connected easily to each other. Apart from that, it has support of variety of automotive networking protocols like CAN, LIN, and SAE J2602. S32K144 Microcontroller supports latest versions of CAN 2.0B and CAN FD.

These features make the ElecronicsV2 board ideal for the Body Control Domain. Various sensors and actuators concerning the Body Control Domain can be connected and are connected via the CAN-LIN network.

ElecroniscV2 features for Body-Control Applications
How to use CAN peripheral in ElecronicsV2 Board
How to use LIN peripheral in ElecronicsV2 Board

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