IIDT - Institution of Industrial Design & Technology

Self Driven Cars
Next Revolution in Automobile World

Isn’t it good if your driver drives off your car from your office to home without interrupting you for anything? Who can obey Traffic Rules every time, always ready to drop you at any time without any excuses?

Well, this is now happening soonly that your artificial driver can drive you from one destination to another with all the above predicted situations. Do not confuse with this, let me simplify what is all about.



In the last few years, the automotive sector has seen a lot of innovation and advancements in technology. Today, computers are being used for a number of aspects in cars that are fuel-efficient, more secure and environmental friendly. With time, cars are getting more and more sophisticated. Modern automotive computer systems came in early 1980s to check engine light and a primitive computer. The onboard computer was indeed a bit ancient, given its huge tin box with edge-board connectors which had a propensity to oxidize & result in drivability issues. Stricter emission laws saw the advent of microprocessors in car engines, since modernized control processes were needed to regulate the air and fuel mixture so that the catalytic converter could eliminate most of the pollution from the exhaust.


Self Driven Car?

Self Driven Cars are equipped with a host of sensors, cameras and radar systems. Artificial intelligence (AI) guides them as where to drive. It is important for this kind of automobiles to collect a vast quantity of data about nearby obstacles, compute risks & make micro-second decisions.

Car has different computers than we usually meet. It looks like a small box & it is known as Electronic Control Module (ECM).

The ECM is a computer, and features many of the same parts as the computer you have at home or at work. There's a microprocessor that receives, interprets and reacts to sensor inputs as fast as they occur. And it's composed of hardware (a pretty standard circuit board) that's encoded with software (a program that tells the car how to run).

Some companies are working on ADAS (Advanced Drive Assist Systems) which is sensor based solutions for vehicles to operate speed at difference. It is a combination of advanced sensors, such as stereo cameras and long & short range RADAR, combined with actuators, control units & integrated software’s to enable cars to monitor and respond to their surroundings. Some ADAS Solutions, such as lane keeping and warning systems, adaptive cruise control, back-up alerts, and parking assistance are available now.

Currently, the automobile giants Ford, GM, Tesla and Volkswagen are working on their future prototypes for semi automated driving systems. Ford will debut ‘Mondeo’ with automatic breaking & pedestrian detection technology in United States by 2016 and globally by 2019. New tech startups are also emerging on the verge of advanced safety & Self driving systems.  


Functions of the Engine Control Module (ECM)

The engine control module basically controls the intersection of the engine's necessary ingredients to make energy - fuel, air and spark. That sounds simple, kind of in the same way an engine itself sounds simple if you break it down into really basic terms. But the ECM accomplishes its considerable chore by constantly monitoring a vast network of sensors around the car to ensure conditions are within normal operating range. When something goes wrong, the ECM adjusts conditions or, if it can't, the car won't run properly or at all. When there's a problem, the ECM stores a trouble code so it can be diagnosed by a mechanic (with a scanner specifically designed for that purpose) and triggers the check engine light so the driver knows something's wrong.

The ECM also makes sure the car meets emissions standards, by monitoring and regulating the fuel mixture to ensure the engine isn't running too rich and emitting pollutants beyond the established parameters. And with all those sensors already in place, the ECM is often responsible for managing features like anti-skid brakes, cruise control and theft protection.

The engine control systems aren't really designed by the auto manufacturer - they're one of the components that's sourced and then customized. Only a handful of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) make ECM systems for cars. Each brand and type can be customized to fit the automotive manufacturer's specifications. However, an ECM must be configured by the manufacturers so a car can perform optimally, taking engine specs and other factors into consideration. Even though OEM suppliers offer a variety of engine computer products with different benefits and features, the same system can be tuned to work with a range of different cars. However, as a starting point, they're broken down into categories like fuel type (gasoline or diesel), engine size and so on.

An ECM is a pretty basic car part - not to diminish its importance, but it's not the kind of feature that a car shopper would use to decide between different models. It's just there. An exception to this rule is modified cars that need to run a programmable ECM. Regardless of the differences between different car models and different ECMs, the inputs in each system remain pretty much the same.

The ECM is tasked with providing fuel and regulating emissions, but there's a lot that needs to happen for that to work. We already talked about the ECM's specific tasks, but that simplifies the process a bit too much. The ECM usually monitors and regulates the throttle position sensor, which tells the engine how much air and fuel to mix to make power; the coolant temperature sensor, which lets the engine know if it's running too hot (and alerts the driver, via the instrument panel light); the voltage regulator, which tracks and adjusts how much power is being sent throughout the car; the fuel injectors, which provide fuel at precisely the right moment for optimum power delivery; the position sensors for the camshaft and crankshaft, which identifies the engine's cycles; the mass airflow sensor and MAP (manifold absolute pressure) sensor, which monitor different ways air affects the engine; the oxygen sensor, which measures exhaust quality; idle control; the EGR valve sensor, which also helps with emissions and the ignition control, which regulates the spark plugs. And all of this is going on all at once, as the car moves and reactions must be immediate. So it's a little nerve-wracking to think that the ECM can go bad just like any other car part.

Future is Now

Autonomous cars are no longer just the realm of science fiction. They are real and will be on roads sooner than you think. The march toward autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars is well underway and though it may be a few years until we get there, the destination may be closer than most people think. It also means that, as a society, we need to start now to fathom the enormous implications of this transition, so that we are ready for it when it comes.

We see five phases in the autonomous vehicle adoption curve, starting with basic active safety capability today and ending at a utopian world in which every car on the road will be autonomous.

Companies like Google, IBM, Uber, Cisco Systems, and other start-ups seem to be aiming for the utopia of universal adoption of autonomous vehicle technology. Google & Uber are heading this race of Autonomous vehicles. This February, Uber announced a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to develop the vehicles at the new Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. CMU has long been a leader in robotics and also the first of university in all, when Robotics offered for doctoral program. Google is planning to launch their autonomous prototypes by 2020, because they want to refine the technology for the security of the consumers. These players seem to want to embrace risk and push the boundaries of disruption, and seem to have little fear of failure. This approach mirrors Nikola Tesla’s attitude to building cars & Teleportation, which so far has achieved remarkable success in a very short period of time.

Uber hopes to use robots to lower fares, and ultimately compete with the entire automotive industry. According to the views of Travis Kalanick CEO of Uber Technologies Inc. about the service’s human drivers the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owing a vehicle & the car ownership will soonly seem disappeared.
The auto industry business model will transformed in some years and obviously it will impact other new sectors, like the PC/Smartphone industry today, we see the auto industry reorganized into dedicated "hardware" OEMs, "software / systems" OEMs/suppliers, and integrated "experience" creators.

This technological shift have many opportunities for future, it will change everything the way we are doing our work, performing particular task. The collaboration with IoT (Internet of Everything) is opening a door to the new world, a connected world where everyday devices will communicate with one another & will make us and our time more valuable. After some decades, a child from toady will hardly believe that man used to do so much work like we do today. There are some security concerns also with these advancements, but we have to accept this change for better tomorrow of humankind.



Autonomous vehicles are also expected to be safer. The next generation of driver-assist systems will likely offer greater vehicle automy at lower speeds and may reduce the incidence of low-impact crashes. These cars won't get drunk or high, drive too fast, or take unnecessary risks that people take all the time. Over 90% of accidents today are caused by driver error. Autonomous cars will bring some social benefits also, like reduced traffic congestion, higher occupant productivity, fuel savings, and many, many more.

However it plays out, these vehicles are coming and fast. Their full adoption will take decades, especially in Asian countries like India & China where city streets found crowded most of the times; but their convenience, cost, safety and other factors will make them ubiquitous and indispensable. Such as with any technological revolution, the companies that plan ahead, adjust the fastest and imagine the biggest will survive and thrive. And companies invested in old technology and practices will need to evolve or risk dying.


  • 15 Oct 2015
  • Ashish Thorat
  • Technology
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