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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Exactly What the Doctor Ordered: Cars that Monitor Their Health and Yours Paul Golata

A big day for me is fast approaching. By the time you read this, that day will likely have come and gone. I went in yesterday to have a final meeting in advance of my Ph.D. dissertation defense.

I have written within an area of advanced technology, specifically on the subject of the relationship between ethics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Artificial Superintelligence (ASI). I am expectantly nervous and hope to do well, but as one can imagine with this day drawing near all I have in my mind is the past two years of work going into the exploration of artificial intelligence.

One of the trends in cars is AI, enabling autonomous driving, such that vehicles can stop in emergency situations before colliding and also to arrive at their destinations with less risk and peril for all. To enable this reality, each system must be equipped with control, monitoring and sensing. 

On my arrival back at my house, after this dissertation defense preparation meeting, I was met by my wife. She received a call that a woman friend of ours was in the Emergency Room (ER) at the hospital that is two blocks from where we live. So we immediately got in the car to see her. Our friend was feeling pain in her chest at the top of her heart. When we arrived, the attending nurse was drawing blood from her to perform a cardiac enzyme test. Elevated levels of enzymes tell the doctors if the heart has undergone a stress such as a cardiac arrest (heart attack). Fortunately, her test came back okay, and she was given some pain pills to treat it and advised to see a general practitioner for further follow-up. I was glad she went directly to the ER when she felt that she was hurting. I am happy that we as humans can often feel that there is something wrong with us physically and get it taken care of immediately.

As for myself, I could not sleep well last evening, as my heart raced somewhat with nervous anticipation to next week.

A few weeks ago I received a Maxim MAXREFDES117 Reference Design on my desk. It’s no emergency room cardiac enzyme tester, but rather it is a low-power, optical heart-rate module complete with integrated red and IR LEDs and a power supply. At its core is the Maxim MAX30102 Pulse Oximeter & Heart-Rate Sensor which also has an algorithm to take an estimate of arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) which is a measurement of one’s oxygenated hemoglobin. Maxim Integrated, and other leading semiconductor suppliers are busily developing small modules to be used in future wearable devices. One of the applications that is being investigated is biometric sensors, such as the one in Figure 1, into automobiles so that that car can be more aware of the human.


Figure 1: The MAXREFDES117#: Heart-Rate and Pulse-Oximetry Monitor complete with integrated red and IR LEDs, and a power supply. This tiny board is perfect for wearable projects.

Is it possible that my next car will be able to measure my heartbeat from placing my hands on the steering wheel? More than wanting to know if the love of my life is sitting by my side or if I am excited about the opportunity of the hitting the gas on the open road in front of me, what the car companies want is new ways to increase the safety, comfort, and convenience for customers. Biometric sensors will allow new opportunities for humans and machines interact in practical ways that incorporate the human condition into the response and performance of the car.

Now, imagine if your car could tell you when it hurts. This car is so technically advanced that it mentions when the batteries aren’t working, or if the fender is dented. For fixes, the car automatically requests a new battery or fender, which is 3D printed, and sent to you. To do so, this car must have advanced monitoring and sensing. 

To make this a reality, thousands of new electronic components are needed to be developed to handle the tremendous amount of information and data that must be collected, analyzed, and responded to. Innovative microprocessor supervisory solutions are necessary to monitor power and processing parameters to the required levels to keep electronic signals moving in an orderly manner through the automobile. Additionally, new sensor solutions will detect analog conditions from the car’s surroundings, including its passengers and provide new levels of inputs that can be used to enrich the customer’s experience. The Red Check Engine light will be a thing of the past while the driver of the future will be receiving a constant and ongoing list of critical parameters displayed to them while the automobile itself makes appropriate suggestions and takes corrective actions through sending various messages to the driver. One example of a new combination sensor, a sensor that has multiple sensors within one package, is the Murata SCC2000 Series. It is a complete product platform for detecting acceleration and angular rate. The new device combines a 3-axis accelerometer with an X-axis or the new Z-axis gyroscope while a gyroscope-only model is available.

Figure 2: Murata Combined Sensor with Combined X or Z-axis Gyroscope and 3-axis Accelerometer

Getting to the heart of automotive design requires engineering smarter cars that monitor more than their health. They will also move towards integrating direct feedback from all sources including its occupants. The future of advanced vehicle technology will start to come to know us by heart.

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Paul Golata joined Mouser Electronics in 2011. As a Senior Technology Specialist, Paul contributes to Mouser’s success through driving strategic leadership, tactical execution, and the overall product-line and marketing directions for advanced technology related products. He provides design engineers with the latest information and trends in electrical engineering by delivering unique and valuable technical content that facilitates and enhances Mouser Electronics as the preferred distributor of choice.

Before joining Mouser Electronics, Paul served in various manufacturing, marketing, and sales related roles for Hughes Aircraft Company, Melles Griot, Piper Jaffray, Balzers Optics, JDSU, and Arrow Electronics. He holds a BSEET from the DeVry Institute of Technology (Chicago, IL); an MBA from Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA); an MDiv w/BL from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, TX); and a PhD from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, TX).

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