Designing for Driverless Car Safety

Have you ever heard that saying, “no risk, no reward?” You have probably encountered it on a fitness show or heard an economist extolling the virtues of buying stocks. Regardless of the specific sources, this mantra is generally worth following. However, there are times when taking risks is the last thing you want to do. One of those instances is when you are barreling down the highway in a 2-ton battering ram at 50 or 60 mph, surrounded on virtually all sides by others doing the same.

Of course, any time you set out on a journey, you want to arrive at your destination in a timely manner. However, when you are the passenger in a vehicle, your primary concern is that the operator adheres to the rule of “safety first.” Fortunately, this concern resonates with auto manufacturers that are introducing driverless cars into the transportation system. This same level of concern for safety must be taken when designing PCBs and electronic devices for autonomous vehicles (AVs). Let’s take a look at the current state of the driverless car industry before enumerating the safety concerns that need to be implemented when designing boards and devices for these vehicles.

The Current State of the Driverless Car Industry

The ultimate goal of driverless car development is to deploy all AV operation levels. This range of vehicle automation will meet the needs of all over the travelers. To date, level 4 is the highest level of development for a vehicle that has actually been road-tested. Of course, with an estimated 80 billion dollars invested globally over the past three years, it is safe to assume that level 5 is not far off. There is undoubtedly great enthusiasm for the advancement of this technology among auto manufacturers; however, the general public also has considerable concerns about safety.

Results from polls by various researchers such as Public Policy Polling, Intelligent Car Leasing, and the Pew Research Center indicates that most people have concerns about how safe driverless cars will be. These results also indicate that many people believe that if driverless cars are out on the roads, they should be regulated by the government and not by industry. When coupled with questions about other technological advances, such as AI, one study found that 55% of respondents say they would trust AVs with a safe driving record better than human drivers.

As with most new technologies, the level of apprehension is initially high. However, once the benefits are realized and the source of fear alleviated, we tend to gravitate to further technological advancements. The driverless car will most likely traverse this same path, provided the concern about safety can be mitigated.

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Designing for Driverless Car Safety

The design and manufacturing of PCBs and electronic devices for automotive systems, including AVs, is heavily regulated. The specific standards and regulations that must be followed depend on your design and its intended application. However, in order to support a safe platform for road deployment, some general guidelines defined below should be followed for your driverless car development.

1. Apply DFM rules that meet your contract manufacturer’s capabilities

The best way to ensure the quality of your board’s construction is to follow DFM rules that are tailored to the equipment capabilities of your CM.

2. Select materials able to withstand the rigorous automotive environment

Automotive system parts are subjected to harsh environmental conditions, including wide temperature variance and vibration. To combat the negative impact of these on the integrity of your boards, you must select materials that can withstand these conditions.

3. Select the best components and verify their functionality

Component selection is important for your board to be reliable over the extended operating cycle expected for most vehicles. For driverless cars, this is more critical as board failure may lead to a safety breakdown.

4. Apply DFA rules to support your board’s assembly

To ensure that your components are securely attached to your board and will withstand any stress once installed, you should follow your CM’s DFA guidelines.

5. Aggressively test your PCBs to ensure reliability

The importance of adequate testing cannot be overstated. The Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) publishes a number of test regimens for your components. In addition to these, circuit board testing may be necessary.

For a driverless car, the most important factor is safety. A concern for safety should permeate your entire development process as it is, ultimately, the primary factor by which the AV platform will be judged.

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Tempo Automation is the industry leader in fast, precise and high-quality PCB manufacturing. We specialize in turnkey prototyping and low-volume production and work with you to optimize the quality of your design.

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 the driverless car or how to design for its safety, contact us.

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