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ESC to the Rescue
The global automotive industry has been grappling with the crucial issues of environmental obligations and safety requirements for some time now. Also known as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC), electronic stability control (ESC) is a computer-based technology used for enhancing the safety of a vehicle’s stability through the detection and reduction of loss of traction or skidding. Upon detecting loss of steering control, ESC automatically applies the brakes in to enable steering the vehicle in the direction intended by the driver. Brake application to individual wheels is automatic, as in the case of the outer front wheel in offsetting oversteering or the inner rear wheel in offsetting understeering. A few ESC systems can also cut down engine power till the time vehicle control is regained. While ESC lacks in enhancing the cornering performance of a vehicle, it can operate for reducing loss of control.
The United States mandated the use of ESC in all passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds (4536 kg) in a phased manner, which started with 55% of 2009 models (effective 1 September 2008), 75% of 2010 models, 95% of 2011 models, and all 2012 models. Forming part of an all-inclusive proposal to reduce the severe danger of rollover crashes, in addition to the hazard of death and serious injury due to such accidents, this rule establishes Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 126 in requiring electronic stability control (ESC) systems on passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 Kg (10,000 pounds) or less. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that deployment of ESC would help in reducing passenger car single-vehicle crashes by 34% and sport utility vehicle (SUV) single-vehicle crashes by 59%, with rollover crashes being reduced by an even greater proportion. As a consequence, on an annual basis, between 5,000 and 9,000 lives could be saved and between 155,000 and 240,000 injuries prevented in all categories of accidents if all light vehicles on the roads in the US are fitted with ESC systems.
The European Parliament has also initiated moves aimed at expediting the implementation of ESC systems, reaching a consensus on March 10, 2009 that mandated the use of these systems in all new vehicles. From November 2011, this regulation requires all new passenger car and commercial vehicle models registered in the European Union to be equipped with electronic stability program (ESP) active safety systems, with application for all new vehicles set for November 2014. Research on accidents has concluded that skidding is the primary cause of fatalities in accidents, and use of ESP can help in preventing about 80% of all crashes resulting from skidding.
The Canadian province of Quebec became the first jurisdiction in implementing an ESC law in 2005, which made it obligatory for vehicles carrying hazardous goods without data recorders. The Canadian federal government now mandates the use of ESC systems in all passenger vehicles from September 1, 2011. The Australian Government’s June 23, 2009, ruling made ESC systems mandatory for all new passenger vehicles sold in Australia starting November 1, 2011, extending to all new vehicles from November 2013.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has ratified a Global Technical Regulation for regularizing ESC standards. The United Nations’ “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020” initiative has been supported by the worldwide success witnessed by ESP, which targets a 50% reduction in the number of fatalities caused by road accidents by the year 2020. Survey findings have revealed that every year, close to 1.3 million people are killed in road accidents on a global basis. Due to these government mandates, automotive electronic systems demand will grow. As automotive sensors are crucial components of the automotive electronics, the global market for automotive sensors also expected to rise. Among automotive sensors types, automotive MEMS sensors will grow better than other automotive sensors.
Current and Future Status of TPMS
A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is an electronic system that monitors the air pressure of a vehicle’s tires. This system comprises a number of radio transmitters with a sensor module that are installed inside the cavities of tires, in addition to a radio receiver mounted on the chassis. In the United States, using TPMS was mandated in 2007, in addition to being made mandatory on all new vehicles sold in the European Union after November 2012. Japan and China constitute the other major automotive markets where legislation for TPMS has been under review. Therefore, it goes without saying that global demand for TPMS is bound to grow in the foreseeable future, since issues related to proper vehicle tire pressure and its impact on safety, fuel economy and carbon emissions cannot be the exclusive domains of a specific region. In the early 2000s, the issue of tire pressure assumed proportions of a national debate in the United States after a spate of automobile accidents, prompting legislators to include tire pressure monitoring as part of the TREAD Act legislation with the aim of enhancing driver and occupant safety. In the existing scenario, all new vehicles rolling out onto the roads in the United States are installed with mandated tire pressure warning systems, boosting the over 100 million strong population of vehicles equipped with these systems plying on the country’s highways. Worldwide, realization has dawned as to the criticality of tire pressure in maintaining vehicle and occupant safety, with several regions jumping on to the TPMS adoption bandwagon. Automotive Sensors are vital components in these electronic systems.
The primary driving force in Europe legislating a TPMS mandate was related to curtailing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which was passed by the European Parliament in November 2009 for implementing TPMS adoption in a phased manner from 2012 and targeting 2014 as the year of full compliance. On an average, use of TPMS enables in enhancing a vehicle’s fuel economy by about 2%, which forms a crucial aspect in the efforts being undertaken by European car manufacturers in attaining the new standards for average fleet CO2 emission levels. While safety considerations also rank high in Europe, it is interesting to note that curtailing CO2 emissions has had more say in pushing forward the legislation mandating TPMS more stringently, when compared to the United States’ TREAD Act. Asia has taken a leaf out of the books of Europe and the US by confirming the adoption of TPMS on a much wider scale than prevalent currently. Regions, such as China, India, Japan and South Korea are all working towards mandating regulations pertaining to TPMS implementation, with South Korea confirming its objective of adopting legislation to this effect on a comprehensive basis. Japan, China and India are likely to follow over the coming few years, with estimates setting target adoption period in Japan at 2017, in China at 2018 and in India at 2019. Other countries anticipated to follow suit include Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Israel, Malaysia and Turkey.