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Evolution of Automotive Electronics Design

Auto electronics are electronics that manufacturers build to specifically operate in automobiles. Generally, technicians designing these electronics have to be extra careful and vigilant when designing and developing these electronics due to a couple of reasons. These reasons include that auto electronics tend to function in pretty harsh conditions or environments with extremely high temperatures. Therefore, inaccuracies in the design or development phases might lead to immense consequences. So how can you ensure that you find the perfect automotive electronics designer for designing electronic components for your vehicle? And if you are a manufacturer, how can you ensure that your automotive electronics are of high quality?

Automotive Electronics in a Nutshell

There are multiple manufacturers from across the world who manufacture high-grade automotive electronics. Moreover, the manufacturing process of automotive gadgets varies from one manufacturer to another and from one device to another. Generally, most electronic gadgets are produced using varying temperature grades, with various manufacturers defining their own temperature ratings. Due to these reasons, engineers and designers have to work hand in hand for them to meet the specifications of a customer.

Here is a list containing some temperatures grades or ratings that manufacturers utilize:

  • Military-grade: -550C – 1250C
  • Automotive grade: -400C – 1250C
  • Industrial: -400C – 1000C
  • Commercial 00C – 850C

You might be wondering, “why not just utilize the military-grade to generate all automotive applications?” The answer to this question is simply cost. Generally, the higher you go in terms of temperature ratings, the more costly the product’s manufacturing process will be. That is why the commercial electronics’ temperature rating stands at a range of 00C – 850C, reducing the cost of manufacturing these products and making them suitable for mass production.

On the other hand, aside from unique temperature ratings, gadgets that fall under the auto electronics category are the devices that manufacturers produce for them to function in an automobile. The design of these electronic products is such that they adapt to the harsh conditions of an automotive system. Electronic products that fall under this category include:

  • Infotainment systems
  • Telematics
  • Carputers


 is the term that you get when you combine the words computer and cars. And just like the term indicates, a carputer combines cars and computers for optimal operation. Generally, manufacturers generate a customized personal computer, and then they integrate it into a car system. These customized personal computers tend to bring the following features to a vehicle:

  • GPS navigation
  • WIfi-capability
  • USB capability
  • Bluetooth capability
  • Music capability – specifically mp3
  • Video capabilities
  • Customized components
  • Low power requirements
  • Compact size

The first time manufacturers utilized a PC in a vehicle, it was utilized for optimal engine control. The computer used at the time was known as the ECU (engine control unit). Moreover, this first ECU was integrated into a Volkswagen back in 1968, and it had one sole purpose: to handle electronic fuel injection 0r EFI.

However, as of the 21st century, Volkswagen and other renowned car manufacturing companies utilize computers in cars to carry out multiple operations.

A Brief Walkthrough of how Early Car Manufacturing Companies were Integrating Computers in Cars


After the first computer system integration into a vehicle, various companies also began to follow suit in terms of adopting computers into their cars. Here is a brief overview of how this took place:

  • 1969 – The introduction of the very first PC-controlled anti-skid system in cars
  • 1971 – Introduction of the first comp-controlled transmission system by General motors
  • 1978 – introduction of a comp-controlled trip PC (which was working via a unique Motorola Microprocessor) by Cadillac
  • 1986 – Development of the very first self-driving vehicle (Navlab 1) by Carnegie Mellon University. Navlab 1 was completely autonomous, and it was a significant breakthrough for the automotive industry and the world at large.
  • 1986 – Development of the first multiplexing wire communication module with multiple chips by Harris Semiconductor
  • 1987 – Generation of the first auto microcontroller chipset, which was generated to CAN car bus standards by Phillips semiconductors and Intel
  • 2014 – Introduction of the first commercial self-driving car (Navia Shuttle)
  • 2015 – Introduction of the first semi-autonomous, self-driving semi-truck by Daimler’s


Telematics is the term that you get when you combine the terms informatics and telecommunications. So in a sense, telematics is generally the integration of telecommunication using communication and informatics technologies. Or in simpler terms, this is the tech of storing, sending, and receiving information that relates to vehicles using telecommunication gadgets.

Here is a list that outlines examples of unique communications that use telematics or take advantage of it:

  • Road safety
  • Satellite navigation
  • Car sharing tech
  • Intelligent vehicle tech
  • Emergency warning systems meant for cars
  • Wireless car safety communication
  • Trailer/vehicle tracking


Infotainment is a term that combines two common words, entertainment, and information. Moreover, experts also refer to infotainment as ICE (in-car entertainment) or IVI (in-vehicle infotainment).

Generally, infotainment refers to a complex collection of various software and hardware components in a vehicle that offers video and audio content in a combo of entertainment and information. Most people argue that infotainment systems brought about the transformation of ordinary cars into smart vehicles. A smart vehicle is simply a vehicle that can offer impeccable entertainment facilities (for example, ear seat entertainment) while at the same time providing tech capable of various driver-assistance tasks, which include:

  • Assisting drivers during the parking process
  • Alerting drivers whenever they find congested routes and traffic jams and suggesting alternative paths that are better in terms of traffic.
  • Offering impeccable internet connectivity in an automobile

Generally, infotainment is among the major automotive industry trends fueling the integration of microelectronic systems in cars. As days go by, it is becoming pretty clear that most, if not all, drivers want always to be connected. Moreover, drivers want to access their personal content easily, anytime and anywhere, and this is only possible via automotive electronics.

As of the 21st century, automotive electronics are providing means to convert an ordinary vehicle into a “connected device effectively.” A connected vehicle is pretty efficient in terms of the following:

  • Comfort
  • Safety
  • Energy

Moreover, it also provides you with various benefits, such as having access to crucial information regarding road accidents, traffic jams, or the weather.

Specific and General Applications of Various Automotive Electronics

Automotive PCB Applications and Types

Today’s vehicles can have up to fifty computer systems that are dedicated to controlling and/or monitoring everything from onboard entertainment to ride handling and in-car communication systems.

Here are the specific and general applications of most automotive electronics that you can find in the market today:

Safety Applications

Automotive Radar Systems

You can easily find automotive radar systems in the market with varying bandwidths. These radar systems mostly have the following specifications:

  • Drivers utilize them for driver-assistance tasks such as blind spot detection and auto emergency braking
  • Short range implementation

Airbag Systems

Airbags are crucial systems in any automobile. Actually, as of the 21st century, having an airbag system in a car is mandatory in most countries. Most automotive electronics manufacturing companies provide flexible and scalable airbag systems that keep drivers and passengers safe.

Multi-purpose Camera Systems

Multi-purpose camera systems are efficient and compact camera systems integrated into automobiles to allow impeccable driver-assistance functions such as:

  • Pedestrian recognition
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Forward collision warnings
  • Lane departure warning

With these automotive electronics in your vehicle you can overcome multiple obstacles that drivers face while on the road. Moreover, since their invention they have helped in terms of keeping road accidents low.

Tire Pressure (TP) Monitoring Systems

Tire Pressure (TP) Monitoring systems are crucial computer systems in automobiles that ensure accurate tire pressure. These systems are pretty vital since they offer the following benefits:

  • A boost in safety
  • Comfortable driving
  • A boost in handling

Powertrain Applications

Micro Hybrid

The micro-hybrid is a high-efficiency and start/stop generator. It is pretty useful in the following situations:

  • Electrical car launching
  • Car coasting/sailing
  • Engine brake emulation

Gasoline Direct Injection Systems

Gasoline direct injection car systems offer a boost in terms of measurement precision (misfire detection, ignition control). Moreover, it also helps in terms of efficient utilization of fuel, which saves you cash and also saves the environment from harmful carbon emissions.

Body Applications

LED Light Modules

LED light modules in automobile assist in terms of controlling the LED in vehicles. That means you can dim or diagnose all the LEDs in your car using these systems. Moreover, LED rear light modules tend to increase the lifespan of the car’s LED due to integrated protection.

Interior Light Controls (Touch Sensors)

Car systems now come with interior light controls, which you can manipulate using a capacitive touch sensor. The capacitive touch sensor replaces mechanical switches, ultimately saving you money. Moreover, these reliable and robust touch sensors instantly take your car to the next level.

How Automotive Electronic Designs have Evolved Overtime

Automotive PCB

The number complexity and functionality of various auto electronics in the 21st century have grown beyond bounds and leaps over the last couple of years. Obviously, the famous Tesla automobile is the flagship, or what people are now terming as the standard for smart cars. However, even if you can’t afford a Tesla, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the luxury of a smart car. Currently, automotive manufacturers and Assemblers are utilizing this tech in the lower-end and mid-range vehicles that most people can afford. And all these is due to something known as the automotive electronics design evolution.

Tech Functionality

The world is now evolving into an era of self-driving autonomous vehicles. That means the number of electronic gadgets in cars is about to get even higher and more complex. But what does this mean to the designing process of automotive electronics?

However, as we await these vehicles to take over the automotive industry, we can enjoy the complexity and efficiency that comes with present-day smart cars. Even though this technology is efficient, it doesn’t come without some issues in terms of the requirements of the product manufacturing part. Generally, automotive electronics come with some specific characteristics.

The characteristics include:

  • Printed circuit boards tend to range from single-layer flexible printed circuit boards to 12-layer printed circuit boards.
  • The skill sets of various designers tend to range from high currents (if they are working with generators, motors, and batteries) to radar systems.
  • Automobiles contain a lot of electronics. Actually, the spectrum that automotive electronics cover in the field of electronics is so broad that you can find any electronic product that you can think of under this category. Moreover, the spectrum that automotive electronics covers is so broad such that it rivals that of airplanes.
  • Automotive electronics provide vehicles with autopilot features that let the car drive autonomously without the help of the driver.
  • Automobile electronics must function across a pretty broad frequency spectrum which can range from 70GHz radar to stereo and everything that lies in between, for example, Wireless Ethernet, Bluetooth, and GPS. For example, Tesla’s tends to communicate with various cell towers as the driver is on the move. Moreover, these vehicles use embedded computer systems to report crucial data to the car’s manufacturer. For example, it might send a report containing its current location and its current status in terms of performance.
  • With modern vehicles, there must be a high-bandwidth network
  • These electronic gadgets are cost-driven. Therefore quality comes at a cost.
  • When it comes to automotive electronic designs, reliability tends to go hand in hand with cost. Therefore, even if you are looking to cut costs, ensure you do not compromise on the quality of electronic gadgets that you utilize on your automobile.
  • The signal integrity of automotive gadgets tends to match that of high-functioning, complex electronic products. Therefore, when you are generating an automotive electronic design, you have to keep this in mind.

Uniqueness of the Automotive Environment

Generally, automotive electronics are unique due to a couple of reasons which include:

  • Automotive electronics must have the ability to function impeccably under a temperature range of -600C to 1300C. Moreover, these components have to be able to tolerate this harsh environment for over 20 years.
  • Moreover, automotive electronics must have the ability to effectively tolerate intense vibrations and shock for an extended period.

Communication is Key

Generally, every product that you can find within a vehicle is interconnected, and it requires some type of communication technology to work seamlessly. The first automotive electronic designs were incorporating controller areas network buses. These buses enable multiple microcontrollers and varying types of gadgets to communicate effectively in real-time. Moreover, CAN buses did not need a host computer to run. With CAN, whenever you integrate a new gadget into the system, it effectively scans each and every component on the controller area network. Then it finds a way to work seamlessly with the system.

A CAN network tends to operate at varying speeds as follows:

  • Class A – 10 kbps
  • The Class B – 125 kbps
  • Class C – 1 Mbps

Moreover, above all these functions, a CAN could also keep your car’s interlocking brakes functional. However, most automotive electronic designers are now replacing CAN buses with Ethernet networks which are more efficient and reliable.

Ethernet networks can access data faster compared to CAN buses. Moreover, these networks have the ability to offer bandwidths that are necessary for high-demand automotive electronics, for example, various cameras that come with modern-day vehicles.

Tech Variations

The complexity and amount of tech in various cars can range from sophisticated to common depending on multiple factors, which include:

  • The car’s model
  • The car make

It’s not been long since the official launch of GPS navigation systems in automobiles. However, when they hit the market, they were only available in expensive car models and makes. Moreover, the cost of these systems was also pretty high; hence most people could not afford them. However, as of the 21st century, GPS has become ubiquitous, which means that it comes pre-installed in most if not all, smartphones. Moreover, it might be challenging to now find vehicles that come without GPS functionality pre-installed. Furthermore, the price of adding this system to a car has decreased immensely, which means you can now have GPS even if your car did not come with it.

However, as seen earlier, if you are willing to spend more, then you are likely to get more in terms of automotive electronic designs. That is because high-end cars tend to come with more sophisticated gadgets. Moreover, with every single model that they release, they add in new tech, which makes this vehicle pretty efficient.

Designing Reliable Automotive Electronics for Various Electronic Cars

Automotive PCB

If you would ask a few of your friends this simple question, “What makes this world revolve?” they would probably give you varying answers. Some might tell you that it is love, others might say it is information, while others might say it revolves due to energy. However, once you remove all the abstract, the answer to this question is energy.

In the era that we are living in, energy drives almost every single thing that you can see or touch. Moreover, you can further refine this to find that electrical energy, or what most people call power, is the most commonly utilized form of energy. However, the ability to effectively distribute sufficient electrical energy to various systems in a reliable manner has become a significant challenge to most people.

EVs or electric vehicles and HEVs or hybrid electrical vehicles face this challenge too. However, when it comes to vehicles, you can view this issue from two distinct perspectives:

  • Availability of charging stations
  • Distribution of electrical energy to the vehicle’s electronic system.

Designers and engineers of auto electronics systems, devices, and PCBs tend to assume the former while taking the latter as a crucial design concern. For instance, material selections tend to depend on electrical energy distribution across the board. Therefore, let us look at electric car systems and how designers can generate automotive electronic designs for these vehicles to optimize electrical energy distribution.

Automobile Electronics for Various EVs

Generally, traditional EVs use a 12V direct current energy supply system. However, HEVs and EVs have evolved over time, and this energy supply system has become inadequate for modern-day EVs and HEVs. As a result, Modern-day HEVs now rely on a 48V direct current energy supply. On the other hand, EVs rely on a 400V direct current energy system. What this means is that the battery of the vehicle is 400V or 48V, even though individual electronic might operate under lower voltage levels. However, putting aside the fact that EVs need high electronic energy to function, there are a lot of advantages that come with using a current supply system in these vehicles.

The effective transmission of direct current electrical energy over various conductors comes with pretty high losses as different gadgets dissipate heat to the environment. However, this is a great concern for Cu (copper) because of its high HTR (heat transfer rate). Moreover, high voltages come in handy when it comes to supplying high-power components and gadgets.

To effectively supply electrical energy to every automotive electrical and electronic system, EVs use staged power conversion. The stages power conversion process encompasses DC-AC inversion or conversion and DC-DC conversion.

Similar to ordinary (non-electric) EVs contain multiple systems and components that undertake various operations. These components and systems include:

  • Accessory control
  • Major functions
  • Monitoring
  • Lighting

Generally, standard vehicles include approximately thirty thousand electronic components. Moreover, HEVs contain around the same amount of components since most vehicles need around the same amount of components to carry out electric and combustion operations.


The automotive electronics industry has grown over time. However, this growth means that automotive electronics designs have also evolved. For example, we have moved from traditional CAN buses in ordinary vehicles to Ethernet systems in modern-day cars. Moreover, EVs and HEVs have also evolved in terms of power intake due to the integration of computer systems. However, this evolution means vehicles are becoming more powerful and efficient.




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