What is the driving force in the automotive sensors market?

17th July 2017
Alice Matthews

Sensors are crucial components of automotive electronic control systems, as modern automobiles rely on electronic systems to meet emission and safety standards. Sensors are the devices that convert physical quantities such as acceleration, temperature, speed, or pressure into electrical signals that serve as inputs for control systems.

Author: Bhagyashree Pagar, Research Analyst, MarketsAndMarkets

Earlier, sensors were discrete devices used to measure various parameters such as coolant temperature, fuel level, and oil pressure. However, with the evolution of new technologies, sensors now are more advanced and microprocessor-controlled and have a wide range of applications. The modern sensors can not only sense the change in a parameter, but can also process the collected data and deliver the information to the engine control units (ECUs).

Increasing vehicular pollution has led to increasingly stringent emission regulations. The rising number of accidents and traffic deaths have led to the demand for strict mandates for safety system installations, while an increase in per capita income has fueled the demand for comfort systems. A result of all these factors is the increase in the demand for sensors in the automotive industry. Sensors have penetrated almost every application in an automobile, from powertrain to exhaust systems and from comfort systems to safety systems. Powertrain applications hold the maximum share in the automotive sensor market.

Factors driving the automotive sensors market

• Increase in Vehicle Electrification

The automotive industry is witnessing promising growth in vehicle electrification, especially in transmission systems, climate control, powertrain, safety systems, and exhaust. With growing economic status and owing to the change in consumer preference for better safety standards, comfort, and adoption of advanced technologies such as ABS, EBD, airbags, and traction control, the penetration of these systems in passenger cars has increased over the past few years. Hence, the demand for sensors has also grown in the passenger car segment. It is expected that developing countries such as India will make it mandatory to install basic safety features like ABS and airbags by 2017, whereas developed automotive markets such as Europe and US have already started planning to incorporate safety regulations and driver assistance systems in commercial vehicle segments. Some OEMs such as Volkswagen have started offering airbags as standard across their range of vehicles. Also, increase in competition has forced vehicle manufacturers to offer their vehicles with better safety and luxury features, which has led to a steep rise in the demand for sensors.

• Growing demand for ADAS applications in passenger cars is strongly driving the market

Owing to regulations mandating installation of driver assistance applications particularly in North America and Europe and a wide range of advantages offered by these assisting systems, the automotive industry has witnessed a significant growth in the installation of ADAS application in vehicles, especially in passenger cars. According to European Regulation Number 661/2009, all vehicles sold in the European Union from November 2015 should be installed with lane departure warning systems (LDWS) along with electronic stability control (ESC). Japan, the United States, and the European Union are also involved in a research programme within the European Commission’s e-Safety Programme. The scope of their study includes collision warning, collision avoidance, and adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems. The results would help to define the regulations for mandating ACC. Recently, there was a proposal from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demanding a rear-facing camera requirement and indicating legislation for front-facing cameras. The New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) ratings in Europe are focusing on active safety for pedestrians, with front-facing cameras installed in cars. The China New Car Assessment Programme (C-NCAP) also has proposed a similar requirement. The regulation speaks about the mandatory installation of TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) in China by 2018. With rising regulatory implications around the globe and buyer preference for safety, comfort, and maneuverability, the penetration of driver assistance systems is projected to grow in the years to come. This will directly influence the demand for sensors, thus, indicating promising market for automotive ADAS sensors.

Sensor types
The most commonly used automotive sensors are temperature and pressure sensors, position and speed sensors, NOx sensor, oxygen sensor, particulate matter sensor, and MAP/MAF sensor. Automotive sensors are used in all major applications, including powertrain, interior/comfort, safety, ADAS, and exhaust. The introduction of driver assistance systems exemplifies the number of sensors that are used in an automobile. Features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning has seen the use of advanced sensors that utilise technologies such as ultrasonic sound, radar, and LiDAR. Pressure sensors are used in the powertrain, exhaust system, and interior/comfort applications.

Pressure sensors measure variables such as fluid/gas flow, speed, fluid level and are used to measure different pressure quantities such as intake manifold pressure, air conditioner compressor pressure, fuel-rail pressure, and atmospheric air pressure. The temperature sensors also have a wide variety of applications that include Engine Coolant Temperature (ECT) sensor, Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) temperature sensor, transmission oil temperature sensor, and manifold air temperature sensor. The change in voltage helps the ECM to determine the temperature of the intake air, exhaust gas, or coolant, aiding efficient working of the vehicle. Position or level sensors monitor the position of various components such as the throttle valve, exhaust gas valve, crankshaft, camshaft, and others to maintain proper timing for various functions such as fuel injection and exhaust gas recirculation. Speed sensors measure the RPM associated with transmission or the wheels. This information is used to modify the engine functions to achieve the proper air-fuel ratio. The increase in demand for Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) has increased the demand for wheel speed sensors. In addition to these, there are various other applications of sensors in a vehicle. Amongst all the applications, position sensors hold the largest market share in the global automotive sensor market.

For a car to be completely autonomous, many systems must collaborate to collect enough data for the car’s computer to provide a safe ride. WiFi, RADAR sensors, and GPS also play a vital part in the autonomous car. WiFi allows the car to communicate with other cars, while GPS gives the car directions to its destination, and RADAR sensors give the car eyes at distances. LiDAR sensors can be used for obstacle detection in automotive applications such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), and autonomous vehicles. LiDAR sensors transmit high-speed light over the required range, and then capture reflected or scattered light to determine the properties of the target. The time of flight (TOF), that is, the time elapsed between the transmitted light and received light, can be used to determine the exact position of the obstacle. LiDAR sensors are more accurate than most of the other sensors available today. As the cost of LiDAR sensors is high at present, their application in vehicle safety systems is limited to high-end automobiles only. However, the cost of LiDAR sensors is declining rapidly due to advancements in semiconductor technology. This is expected to make vehicle safety systems more affordable to the automotive sector.

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