The auto-rotate function on your smartphone that allows you to switch between the landscape and portrait mode screen orientations is one of the most under-rated technology. And, so are the cars equipped with factory-fitted airbags. While the former allows you watch a video while travelling, the other saves thousands of lives every year involved in a car crash. The two may sound two randomly placed unrelated examples that have nothing in common. But, component manufacturer, Bosch claims that both smartphones and airbags have more in common than the general public will ever know.
Before the massive rise in electronics and sensor technology, Bosch came up with a simple idea of introducing a bell that warned drivers if a car's tyre-pressure has gone down. It was a simple yet a clever idea of mounting the bell on the inner part of the rim, it will start to touch the ground as the air-pressure goes down resulting in making a sound. This technology evolved faster and now we have sensors based tyre pressure monitoring system.
With the rise in technology, it was not just an electric steering wheel that made driving easy. Mechanical pressure sensors for fuel-injection systems, Lambda sensors for anti-pollution systems and the race to use these sensors to monitor became a trend with every passing decade. To develop a more safe and comfortable car along with convenient technology and dealing with stringent pollution norms in the USA and Europe saw many auto-component makers including Bosch to invest heavily in MEMS microelectromechanical systems sensors.
The first ever microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) were first introduced in 1995 and were much bigger than today's modern day sensors. Primarily MEMS were used in automotive safety and comfort systems and gradually played a crucial role in engine management, driver assistance system and the introduction of ABS and electronic stability control.
In simple words, these sensors became one the important member of car's onboard computer and prompted it on decisions like when to deploy the airbag in an event of a crash or sense raindrops on the windscreen to put the car's wiper on automatically or sense light to execute the automatic headlight on (AHO) function.
Bosch process or Plasma-etching made the mass production of MEMS possible. Auto manufacturers suddenly turned into tech-giants and itself fueled the progress to develop the safest and smartest vehicles. With every passing year, the sensors became smaller but powerful and saw the implementation in various other application like smartphones & tablets, aeroplanes and even in kitchen appliances.
The next big things that MEMS sensors allowed was the use of GPS that made way for these many navigation apps and devices with higher accuracy. Bosch sensors made it everywhere: Cars, trucks, rockets, drones, yachts to watches, cameras and microwave ovens. Over 75% of MEMS sensors manufactured by Bosch are used in consumer electronics products.
MEMS sensors are the basis for a significantly more varied, convenient and intelligent use of electronic devices. The current generation of sensors is even smaller and powerful than their predecessors. They understand the world and connected devices help them to adapt to any type of device/surroundings. These are still used in cars and will be present in the future cars too with connected vehicles and autonomous driving taking the centre stage globally.
A report on Digital trends quotes Reinhard Neul, Bosch’s project head for innovative sensor technology saying “We are currently developing new angular rate sensors for self-driving cars that, in conjunction with additional inertial sensors, LIDAR, and satellite navigation, collect all the of the vehicle’s driving-related data. As a result, the control system always knows the position and movement of the vehicle and other road users, and can react to this information accordingly.”
Jean-Christophe Eloy President & CEO, Yole Développement, “Among the ten biggest MEMS companies, Bosch has become a real titan. It is today the only MEMS company that is taking full manufacturing, engineering and commercial advantage of its positioning in dual markets, automotive and consumer.”
In a media statement, Bosch says that mass production of MEMS sensors started in 1995 and ever since over 5 billion of these sensors have been manufactured. Today's modern day's sensors can detect the tiniest physical variables, but are nonetheless extremely robust and can be mass-produced cost-effectively. Bosch currently makes more than 4 million of these sensors each day.