The idea of driverless cars has captured consumers’ imaginations and fuelled billions of pounds in investment over the years.
In fact, over £200 billion has been poured into autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies and smart mobility. And despite several challenges that have cropped up along the way — from supply chain delays and rising inflation to skills and labour shortages — car manufacturers have continued working to meet changing demands and develop the vehicle fleet of the future.
In 2023, experts predict that the autonomous capabilities of EVs will reach new levels, with partially self-driving cars hitting our roads on an unprecedented scale.
So, what is driving the demand for autonomous vehicles — and how can automotive electronics manufacturers remain adaptive in the face of obstacles?
Kicking autonomy into gear
Without a human operator, the normal manual inputs of an autonomous vehicle (that allow drivers to accelerate, brake and turn) are controlled by a central processor that uses light, detection and ranging (LIDAR), mapping and communication technologies to make the vehicle responsive to its surroundings and help it determine its appropriate speed and direction.
So, what are the benefits of autonomous vehicles for users?
Greater road safety
Automation can help replace the risk of dangerous driver behaviours — like speeding, driving whilst texting and impaired driving — and reduce the number of crashes on our roads.
More personal freedom
Self-driving cars can help enhance the independence of people restricted by transportation, like seniors and those with disabilities, allowing them to travel safely and efficiently.
Less environmental impact
Now that the UK government has banned the sale of new fossil-fuel cars by 2030 to help meet net-zero targets (with the EU following suit by 2035), drivers are turning to electric and autonomous vehicles.
Most AVs developed today have highly efficient and extremely advanced electric engines that offer enormous opportunities for emission savings — because they generate minimal emissions over their lifetime compared to conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines operating on fossil fuel.
So, it is no surprise that the AV market is expected to snowball — with estimates suggesting AV sales could reach over $2.2 trillion (£1.81 trillion) by 2030. Industry 4.0 technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) facilitate these new and improved capabilities for electric and autonomous vehicles, allowing car designers to emulate the connectivity and convenience we have become accustomed to in the increasingly digital world.
But implementing these enhanced features is no small feat. So, what must automotive electronics providers do to ensure they continue to meet quality and safety expectations?
Considerations for AV manufacturers
The capabilities of self-driving cars are powered by a suite of sensors and computers that rely on advanced semiconductor technologies to function and provide the best performance.
So, at the height of a global semiconductor shortage, original equipment manufacturers should consider new semiconductor materials — such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride — which offer superior performance characteristics compared to traditional silicon. These materials can withstand higher temperatures and voltages, making them ideal for use in the harsh conditions of an autonomous vehicle.
Plus, as AV designs advance, their cyber security capabilities should evolve too. Every IoT-powered sensor should be equipped with security features to prevent criminals from hacking into manufacturer-to-vehicle communications, hijacking vehicle controls and sensors and collecting private data.
As such, OEMs must ensure software and hardware in autonomous vehicles undergo thorough testing and vulnerability assessments. Automotive electronics manufacturers should also upskill across the board to compete with software and tech companies at the forefront of development within this field — to guarantee compliance, safety and quality.
Steering the future of self-driving cars
At EC Electronics, we have vast experience and knowledge working on projects within the automotive sector and meeting all the industry’s requirements.
Not only do we manufacture cutting-edge and high-quality technology, but we can also protect your electronics through our in-house process of conformal coating, which prevents damage from moisture, dust or contaminants in harsh and hazardous environments.
We also work in partnership with providers supplying tier-one automotive contractors to assist with component selection — finding the best solution to ensure their products meet the high standards and performance requirements expected of manufacturers in this field. And, of course, EC Electronics only produces components to the highest quality levels and IPC-A-610 and IPC/WHMA-A-620 to ensure complete reliability and safety.