December 7, 2021

Automotive Safety Standards: Addressing Growing In-cabin Complexity

Next-gen radar systems can perform the job of multiple sensors, helping automakers to comply with evolving safety standards. 

To meet rising automotive safety standards, automakers are intensifying their focus on in-cabin safety features such as enhanced seat belt reminders (SBR), child presence detection (CPD) and optimised airbag deployment. More requirements are expected over the next few years, along with growing consumer demand for improved comfort features.

While the end goal of protecting every life on the road is the same, there’s currently a lack of alignment in terms of when new safety requirements will come into force in different regions. This represents a significant challenge for any manufacturer wishing to sell a single product in several—or all—markets. One option is to add sensors on a provisional basis and to activate them if and when they are needed, but this approach carries a significant price tag and fails to add value.

Of equal concern is the fact that in many developing countries, automotive safety isn’t properly regulated. There are numerous factors at play here, including poor road infrastructure, inadequate emergency services and badly maintained vehicles, many of which have been extensively modified or rebuilt.

As a result, many OEMs producing budget vehicles still regard anything over and above baseline safety technology to be uneconomical. Customers who purchase such vehicles—and passengers who ride in them—cannot benefit from the optimal level of protection defined by Euro NCAP, for example. Thus, a perverse situation of safety inequality is perpetuated with the necessary protection remaining the preserve of those living in more affluent countries who can afford more expensive vehicles.

Trajectories and timelines

One of the most respected international automotive safety standards bodies is Euro NCAP, which publishes an ever-evolving roadmap that constantly pushes industry innovation inspired by the goal of minimising Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs). Every few years, Euro NCAP introduces stricter scoring criteria across all protocols. In 2023, for example, the fitment of CPD technology will be needed to earn a full four points across the categories of adult protection, child protection, pedestrian protection and safety assist. In particular, this technology is essential for preventing hot car incidents, which have killed thousands of children left behind in cars worldwide.

At the same time, the existing requirement for front and rear SBR technology will become a precondition for achieving three additional occupant status (OS) points, while additional in-cabin safety criteria include airbag disabling and more advanced eCall. As is often the case, where Euro NCAP leads, other organisations follow.

In 2018, Australia’s safety regulatory body ANCAP harmonised its standards with its European counterpart and is implementing the same changes to its scoring criteria. On the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) NCAP 2021-25 roadmap, CPD will be worth two points. Rear bench SBR systems are already a mandatory prerequisite for a five-star rating by ASEAN NCAP. This feature is also a requirement of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) and Japan’s automotive safety regulatory body.

In the US, meanwhile, the Hot Cars Act has already been passed by both the House and Senate. Once signed into law, it will mandate CPD for all new vehicles in the country, possibly as early as 2022. Meanwhile, a new requirement of US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 is enhanced airbag suppression, with the aim of reducing airbag impact injuries, especially those suffered by children.

But while safety organisations around the world share a single direction of travel, their velocities vary, with no unified timeline for the introduction of specific in-cabin criteria.

Multiple challenges, a single solution

To navigate an uneven legislative landscape, manufacturers must implement solutions that give them the flexibility to meet emerging standards in different regions.

To sustain profitability, they must also reduce the significant costs of deploying dozens of sensors for multiple standard operating procedure (SOP) programmes for each vehicle model. In fact, the legacy industry model of fitting one sensor to perform just one function makes safety prohibitively expensive even for high-end vehicles and is no longer sustainable.

On the existing trajectory, the number of sensors required to meet upcoming safety protocols is expected to surpass 200 per vehicle by the turn of the decade, with hardware, software, wiring, and electronic control units (ECUs) set to increase complexity and send costs spiralling. This is a significant challenge even for OEMs operating in the most lucrative markets, and those working with tighter budgets in emerging markets have usually considered the highest levels of automotive safety to be beyond their means.

For engineers, programme managers and purchasers looking to stay ahead of the game, a new approach is making safety accessible and affordable for all manufacturers—and all vehicle models.

The growing role of radar

Meeting the regulatory safety requirements of different regions and equipping budget vehicles with advanced occupant protection capabilities can now be achieved with an affordable, multifunctional single-chip solution.

Leading-edge 4D imaging radar technology, such as Vayyar’s industry-first in-cabin solution, addresses Euro NCAP’s most challenging current and upcoming safety requirements. A single multifunctional sensor simultaneously supports numerous safety features, from CPD and enhanced SBR systems to optimised airbag deployment and disabling, taking on the workload of seven or more single-function sensors. This breakthrough technology enables manufacturers to meet multiple automotive safety standards with a single chip, allowing any passenger vehicle to score up to 7.5 Euro NCAP in-cabin safety points.

Vayyar’s platform, supporting an application-ready combination of CPD and SBR, also gives partners the tools they need to rapidly write the applications they require and the ability to deploy them remotely via over-the-air updates. As new regulations are rolled out, the platform keeps pace with a high-resolution 4D point cloud API enabling accelerated development of new features. The same single-chip sensor supports image processing, AI and neural network training, eliminating the need for suppliers and manufacturers to deal with radio frequency, reducing effort, shortening time to market, and minimising risk.

Multifunctionality on a single-chip platform enables manufacturers to comply with automotive safety standards around the world and represents an affordable solution that puts advanced safety within reach of even entry-level models. For automakers, it’s a sword that cuts through the Gordian Knot of compliance, cost, and complexity.

Initially published in Automotive World. Click here to view the original publication.

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