Challenges and Solutions for AV Electronics Design and Development

As I woke up on my 16th birthday, I could hardly wait for my father to take me down to the DMV to get my license. Finally, after years of deprivation, I could drive! Holding that laminated card in my hand felt like hoisting up a gold nugget after an eternity of fruitless mining. This euphoria lasted for quite a while and still appears at times now. On some occasions, however, driving seems to be more akin to a race where I am constantly distracted by flashing lights, bursts of sound or fear of colliding with another vehicle. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could reduce risks and eliminate the responsibility of driving while retaining the freedom and convenience of coming and going as we please?

The day is rapidly approaching when this mobility dilemma will be solved, and the solution is the autonomous vehicle (AV). An AV or driverless car is a vehicle that is capable of “driving” with minimal or no aid from a human controller. AVs have traveled millions of miles on our roads, mostly unnoticed by other drivers. From all reports, AVs are quite safe and there has been but one documented death attributed to them. This is promising as no AVs have yet been developed that meet the industry’s highest autonomy levels. It is predicted that complete driverless autonomy will bring about a corresponding reduction in all types of vehicle accidents. This significant improvement in road safety will depend on AV electronics systems adhering to IPC-6012DA and other strict automotive standards to provide the thrust for the increased usage of these vehicles. Let’s take a look at these systems as well as the challenges and solutions related to their design and development.

AV Electronics Systems Operation Levels

The term autonomous, when applied to an automotive or motor vehicle, is generally assumed to mean “fully” self-driving. It can also mean that the electronics systems that control operation do not require any human intervention. In reality, there are varying levels of autonomy and most recently developed cars contain some electronics systems that are autonomous. A scale that is commonly used to define the level of autonomousness for AV electronics systems is listed below.





All systems are human-controlled.


One system is controlled by the car at a time (e.g. cruise control, automatic braking system or ABS).


At least two systems are simultaneously controlled by the vehicle.


The vehicle is capable of managing all safety-critical systems. However, if alerted, driver control is expected.


The vehicle can operate with full autonomy in some situations.


Self-driving is possible in all situations.

To date, only the Waymo (formerly the Google Self Driving Project) has tested Level 4 AVs. These tests have been restricted to certain states, such as Arizona and Michigan, and harsh driving conditions have been avoided. However, in October 2018 the company was granted a permit to begin testing in California and plans to offer a ride-hailing service by year’s end.

AV Electronics Systems Design and Development Challenges and Solutions

All automotive vehicles can be classified as critical systems. As such, there are challenges beyond those faced for most PCB and electronics design and development. These challenges include vibrational shocks and extreme temperature environments. The most important challenge, however, is the reliable operation of safety systems. The safety system for high level (4 and 5) AVs include various cameras and sensors, as shown in the figure below.

AV electronics cameras and sensors

AV electronic camera and sensor system coverage areas

Collectively, the systems above provide detailed optical, audio and radio frequency data to obtain information about the vehicle’s surroundings in order to detect and respond to potential contingencies, such as collisions. These systems are comprised of PCBs and electronics that define their quality and reliability and ensure the safety of passengers. The challenges that accompany AV electronics systems design and development can only be met by implementing solutions that employ the best quality and reliability guidelines for PCB design and manufacturing. Following the suggestions below will go a long way towards ensuring that you meet this high bar.

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Solutions for AV Electronics Design and Development

🚙 Adhere to Automotive System Design and Development Standards

Safety is a critical issue for AVs. Therefore, there are many automotive standards designed to address the components and materials used, quality of design and manufacture and testing required for AV electronics boards and devices. It is imperative to be aware of and follow these.

🚙 Partner with the Best Contract Manufacturer (CM)

For AV electronics, quality is not just important; it is paramount. And the quality of your devices and systems depends on your choice of critical system CM for board fabrication and PCB assembly.

🚙 Perform Sufficient Testing

There are numerous testing requirements, depending on the component and board type. In addition to these, you may want to perform manufacturing tests to assist with bring-up. If so, you should employ design for testability (DFT) that meets your requirements.

Tempo‘s Custom Vehicle Electrification PCB Manufacturing Service
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.
  • Agile manufacturing process to quickly adapt to fast evolving EV and AV industry.
  • Board construction capabilities that meet IPC standards for critical systems.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping and low volume production.
  • Design testing capabilities; including Flying Probe.

The design and development of AV electronics, especially for level 4 and 5 vehicles, pose significant safety challenges that, if not met, can result in severe damage, personal injury and even loss of life. The severity of failure necessitates that quality and reliability be the guiding principles of design and development. At Tempo Automation, we possess the advanced equipment and expertise to meet your requirements.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on autonomous vehicle (AV) electronics or design challenges and solutions, contact us.

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