From mechanic to electronic

How to ensure safety and reliability of automotive electronics

By Claire Marchand

In the past, a little knowledge in mechanics was all it took to do minor repair on your car. Nowadays you probably need a degree in IT engineering to perform even the most mundane type of maintenance on your vehicle.

car infotainment system Delphi’s MyFi infotainment system can push separate videos to each screen in the car and the audio system creates individual earspaces, so people can enjoy their respective soundtracks without headphone and without distracting others (Photo: Delphi)

From the beginning…

Automotive electronics appeared in the 1970s to control engines. The first electronic control units (ECUs) handled basic functions such as ignition timing and transmission shifting. Thanks to the development of sensors and microprocessors, mass-produced vehicles began to be equipped with electronic fuel-injection systems in the early 1980s. Over the years, active safety systems – anti-lock braking, traction and skid control, suspension control – were added first to luxury models before becoming the norm for all types of cars. 

…to smart cars

Since the early 2000s, automotive electronics has seen major developments, linked to sonar, radar and laser emitters performing a wide array of functions, e.g. blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control and park assist systems, automated braking and distance-keeping via smart cruise control. But they haven’t stopped at safety and driver-assistance issues. Passenger comfort and infotainment systems are now fitted in many new models. 

This is just the beginning as we have now entered into the world of smart autonomous, always-connected vehicles. 

Communication between vehicles and with infrastructure

Not a day goes by without news of driverless vehicles being tested in traffic somewhere around the world. They’re not quite ready yet but should become reality probably sooner than we think. 

Meanwhile, car-to-car (V2V) and car-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication is developing at a rapid pace and in the near future could help avoid traffic jams and accidents, making the roads safer than ever. 

Reliability is a must

At the basis of all these developments, as is the case for all electronic devices and equipment, are electronic components. As the technologies that allow cars to become smarter by the day and to communicate with one another and with infrastructure take off, people will come to rely on the signals and warnings their car gives them. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the components that underpin these technological advances be of highest quality. The use of substandard or faulty components may have dire, if not lethal consequences. 

Safer components for smart technologies

To ensure that the technologies being developed for vehicles around the world are reliable, IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, created a programme that gives the automotive industry a standardized way of testing the components in those technologies. The IECQ Automotive Qualification Programme (IECQ AQP) helps automotive manufacturers avoid multiple tests and related costs. It can also be used by independent, third-party certification bodies to make sure that components meet automotive industry standards. 

Organizations that hold IECQ Automotive Qualification Programme Certification show the international market that they and their facilities comply with the requirements of the IECQ System. These organizations are also demonstrating that they comply with the relevant declared technical Standards and specifications for their scope of activity. 

The future may bring us cars that help keep us safe and speed up our trips during rush hour and IECQ will continue to ensure that the electronic and electrical components in our vehicles do not fail us when we need them most. 

More information: www.iecq.org

Gallery
electronic fuel injection system Electronic fuel injection systems appeared in the early 1980s (Photo: StreetTrucks/ Brandon Lillie)
car infotainment system Delphi’s MyFi infotainment system can push separate videos to each screen in the car and the audio system creates individual earspaces, so people can enjoy their respective soundtracks without headphone and without distracting others (Photo: Delphi)
V"V and V2I communication by Mercedes Command/Carnectiv V2V and V2I communication (Photo: Mercedes Command/Carnectiv)