The automotive electronics sector comprises all the electronic and electrical sub-systems used in military, consumer and industrial vehicles. Strict standards and quality control procedures apply to automotive electronic products, increasing the cost and complexity of production. Automotive electronics are either supplied as components to automotive manufacturers by Millbug or sold to customers through aftermarket sales.
Electronic products for use in military vehicles are substantially different from those required in consumer and industrial vehicles and are often referred to as vetronics.
Automotive OEM products can be divided into four major categories as follows:
The electronics involved in providing the core driving functionality and providing safety features in a vehicle are critical systems. Failures in these systems due to latent defects, design flaws or software problems can result in significant damage to the vehicle or loss of life. As a result, these systems place the greatest demands on both the design and manufacturing processes, especially as car manufacturers are increasingly relying on such electronics to perform engine, braking and steering functions.
Examples of such systems include: engine management systems, ABS braking technologies, air bags, active or electronic suspension systems, drive-by-wire and power steering systems, fuel injection management systems and transmission systems.
Modern vehicles usually include a substantial number of electronic sub-systems dedicated to providing functionality for the direct benefit of the driver and passengers. These systems often relay critical information, such as dashboard displays, or perform a necessary function as in the windscreen wiper control systems. The failure of such a system is, however, not as severe as in the case of devices controlling power train functionality or safety systems. However, the majority of automobile manufacturers strive to achieve the highest level of quality in such system to ensure customer satisfaction, as there is constant innovation and improvement in this particular class of product.Examples of these systems include: climate control systems, central locking systems, dashboard and instrument clusters, interior lighting systems, heads-up displays, headlight management systems and safety warning systems.
In recent years, the adoption of specific electronic systems to assist the driver has gained increasing popularity. These features first began appearing in high-end luxury vehicles and have begun trickling down into other models. These systems provide assistance to the driver in the form of additional information, visual assistance, audible warning and even the automation of certain driving tasks (through features such as adaptive cruisecontrol and radar-guided braking). These systems pose additional challenges to designers and manufacturers as their operation is not critical to the functioning of their car but malfunctions or unexpected behaviour can lead to serious accidents and injury. These devices therefore need to exhibit a degree of accuracy and reliability equal to that of critical power train systems and often need to include redundancy and intuitive driver override functionality.
Examples of these systems include: parking sensors, white-line monitoring systems, night vision systems, adaptive headlight control, collision detection systems, tyre-pressure monitoring systems and engine diagnostics and warning systems.
The majority of vehicles manufactured include at least one dedicated system to provide entertainment, information or communication facilities, with high-end luxury vehicles often including a vast array of tightly integrated systems. These systems exist in the slight overlap between the consumer and automotive electronics sector and provide non-critical features to the driver and passengers. Failure in these systems does not directly affect the performance of the vehicle and poses very little security risk. There are additional design considerations as such systems are required not to distract the driver. Due to the lesser restrictions and the need to continually support consumer technologies, this category of product is continually being upgraded and improved.
Examples of these systems include: navigation systems, passenger and rear seat entertainment systems, audio systems, hand-free mobile phone systems, telematics services and radio/satellite receivers.
Aftermarket electronics components are generally not required for the operation of a vehicle but rather provide additional or enhanced functionality. Such components may also be offered as a lower cost or alternative replacement for core components, although this is less prevalent in automotive electronics industry. Aftermarket components are often used to provide features that are directly integrated into newer vehicles, such as security and communication products.
Aftermarket electronics products are rarely found for power train and safety systems but are regularly available in the other three categories. Examples of such products are given below:
Controls, comfort, security and convenience systems: car alarm systems, immobilisers, remote and wireless entry systems, tracking devices, vehicle “black box” systems, remote cut-out devices and central locking systems.
Driver assistance systems: parking sensors, collision avoidance systems, heads-up displays, vehicle tracking systems and fleet management system.
Information, communication and entertainment systems: navigation systems, entertainment and multimedia systems, hand-free kits, radio and stereo equipment and additional vehicle lighting.