Have you ever wondered how your car window opens and shuts at the press of a button, how your car's sensors begin to beep as another vehicle comes, and how a small press on the accelerator pedal may boost the engine's power delivery in a fraction of a second? Certain software codes are at work deep within a car, allowing these physical actions to take place.
A microprocessor is used to execute that program. The microcontroller comprises the CPU and several peripherals. This microprocessor handles everything from providing the proper amount of fuel to the engine to managing brakes, regulating the human-machine interface (HMI) display, and managing automated seats, windows, and mirrors.
An entry-level car may have 15-20 microcontrollers, while a high-end connected car may have more than 100 such microcontrollers. In other words, software instructions are created to control a certain function of an automobile, and the microcontroller interfaces with the physical control.
And the usage of such devices in automobiles is increasing. According to CV Raman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd chief technology officer, the usage of electronics in vehicles has grown in recent years.
"Semiconductors are employed in almost every functional area of contemporary petrol/diesel cars, including the engine, body control, steering system, braking systems, airbag system, infotainment, and vehicle telematics system, among other things."
With the widespread use of electric vehicles, Raman predicts that this use will only increase.
"Electric cars require a variety of controls to manage the electric powertrain. Electronics and semiconductors are required for the battery, motor, inverter, and charging system. Furthermore, various auxiliary systems, like the compressor, vacuum pump, and regenerative braking systems, must be converted from mechanical to electric to fulfill electric car standards, resulting in greater semiconductor consumption," he says.
The value of electronic components in a typical modern automobile may vary from 10-15%. However, with electric cars, this may be around 1.5 times what it is in typical gasoline/diesel automobiles. Due to the growing popularity of connected automobiles in India, semiconductor consumption is also expanding.
Voice-assisted phone calls, in-car air quality monitoring, remote engine start, and over-the-air software updates are all accessible in these cars with an eSIM. In India, several companies such as Kia, Hyundai, MG, Tata, and others are now offering connected vehicles.
Semiconductors are required even in allegedly "simpler" automobiles, such as entry-level bikes or even tractors. So, the next time you see your vehicle responding to your voice, or the air conditioning controlling cabin temperature, or the anti-lock braking system avoiding an accident, remember that software operating on little chips the size of a thumb is assisting the car.