automobiles sensors

Sensors are electronic sensors, modules or subsystems that are used to sense changes in the environment in order to relay signals to other electronics, such as computer processors as specified by Halderman et al. Despite its sophistication or simplicity, the sensor is based on other electronics. Sensors are used in many environments, such as cars, to monitor the light of lamps or to act as a touch sensitive elevator switch. However, as a result in the advancement of the micro machinery and microcontroller platforms that are easily used, the use of the sensors have expanded from the traditional fields of measuring the temperature and pressure to more advanced sectors of machinery, medicine, robotics and other aspects of life. The sensors provide a corresponding output to something. For example, a thermocouple that converts heat into the voltage.

History of sensors

Historically, different types of sensors were invented by different people. A sensor known as the electric thermostat was invented by Warren Johnson ( EngineersGarage). The purpose of the sensor was to keep the temperature within some degree of accuracy. The first thermostat appeared on the market in the year 1883.This type of sensor was manmade.By 1940, infrared sensors had also been introduced to the market. Another different type of sensor that was invented was a motion sensor which was used in an alarm system. The motion sensor was invented by Samuel Bagno in early 1950.The motion sensor used ultrasonic frequencies and the Doppler Effect. After the invention of the motion sensor, the first motion sensor was used to determine the location of a person in a room or in a given close area. As the sensors improved, they were also used to calculate the motion of the stars. Additionally, during the World War 11, the motion sensors were also used in mines. The sensors enabled the mines to detect motion on the surface resulting in the explosion of the mines. These types of sensors are still used up to date to track an enemy during war and to control the air trafficking so as to avoid accidents (EngineersGarage ).

Automobile sensors were used as early as 1950’s.During that period, the simplest of the sensors was used to alert the driver of the vehicle problems. Warning lights that had low oil pressure, the warning lights, and the charging system warning lights were simple sensor circuits that automatically turned the light to alert the driver to a problem. However, during these early years, there were no computers to monitor the particular conditions of the vehicle. In the early 1970’s electronic fuel was controlled by sensors which had been developed by Bosch and was used on particular brands: Porsche, Benz, VW and Datsun ( EngineersGarage).

By the end of 1970, sensors that enhanced electronically controlled systems were widely installed in vehicles. Later on, catalytic converters that required O2 sensors were also introduced. The basic computers to be used were known as Electronic Control Modules.Once these computers were installed in the systems, the sensors were used to input information to the installed computers. Through this, check Engine light informed the driver of a fault in the vehicle. Most of the computer controlled systems used sensors so as to improve the oil control and reduce tailpipe emissions. Sensors have gradually developed in the automotive industry since then.

GM and Ford Companies and self-driving vehicles

Ford, is a multinational company based in Michigan. The company’s major business is to sell commercial vehicles as well as automobiles under the brand Ford. Ford Company has developed sensors to be used in all motor vehicles. Further, the company has taken big moves to be the first in the market to have self-driving automobiles. Ford uses Lidar Technology to develop the self-driving vehicles. This type of technology uses sensors to control all the activities of a vehicle.This will help the company to move to stage 4 of the autonomy (Fagnant et al.162).Additionally, the Ford company has developed the use of a drone to be used in self-drive vehicles. The goal of the drone is to map the surrounding beyond what the car sensors can detect. The company further incorporates LiDAR sensor system which involves ultrasonic sensors that make decisions to the overall piloting system, the lighting system, the camera system and detect any obstacle that can deter the vehicle (Fagnant et al.164)

General Motors is also an automobile, American multinational Company whose headquarters are in Michigan.GM designs, manufacture and distributes vehicles together with vehicle parts as well as selling financial services. The pace in self-drive vehicles has increased in the recent past as technology keeps on advancing. General Motors is said to have a massive fleet of the automated vehicles for a program with affiliate lyft ((Fagnant et al.166).The company seeks to develop Bolt hatchbacks for the self-driving vehicles. The self-driven vehicles will use the radar and laser K type of LIDAR sensors to maximize the vision as well use a computing system that is AI-enabled(Fagnant et al.167 ).

Similarities and differences of GM and Ford Sensors

Both General Motors and Ford Company postulates some similarities in the sensors used in self-driving vehicles. Both companies incorporate the sensor systems known as LiDAR which is used to control the overall system in the vehicle. However, there are major differences in the use of sensors for the different companies. Since the self-driving vehicles have not been fully actualized in the market, each company has taken different routes in the project acquisition. Ford company has come up with drones made up of sensors. The drone detects more than the ordinary sensor in the vehicle. Conversely, General Motors in an effort to develop the self-driven vehicles, the company uses Bolt hatchbacks and further uses AI –enabled computing system (Frank and Randy).

Engine sensors in Ford and GM

Modern vehicles have been installed with various engine sensors. However, the design of the sensor depends on the brand of the vehicle. The engine sensors include, engine speed sensor that controls the speed of the vehicle; air fuel ratio meter, Crank and Cam position sensors ;knock sensors that detects engine knocking; engine temperature sensor whose function is to measure the engine’s temperature; speed sensor whose function is to measures the vehicle’s speed , fuel pressure system that measure the pressure of the fuel; MAF sensor which notifies the mass of air getting in the engine; MAP sensor that regulate the fuel metering(Wiggins et al. 249 ).

The Ford Company has distinctive engine sensors that are used for the FORD vehicles. The Ford Engine sensors are Klopfsensor Engine Ignition Knock detonation Sensor; this is a sensor used to detect engine knock down. Other types of the knock engine sensors are Ford denotation sensor used for FORD Porsche and Knock down sensors for Ford VW. There are Engine Oil pressures sensors for the different sockets, and types of Ford Vehicles. There are exhaust pressure sensors for Ford 6.01.Oxygen sensor, valve positioning sensors, the Temperature sensor for the engine cylinder, Engine oil pressure, crankshaft, and camshaft are also Fords’ Sensors(Jammoussi 1688 ).The General Motors uses an ACDelco, sensor that manages the engine. The signal of the sensor is used by the engine control module and the throttle position sensor so as to measure the amount of air entering into the engine. The calculation of air entering the engine enables the appropriate fuel to be injected into combustion optimality ( Jammoussi 1688 ).

Tire sensors in Ford and in GM Companies

Ford Company has developed tire pressure sensors all from Schrader and Lear. The tire pressure sensors depend on the model of the Ford vehicle. The tire pressure sensors have been incorporated into tool kit that can be used by the driver to detect changes in the tire pressure. Some of these sensors are a variety of TPMS single Titanic, single Motorcraft, and single Schrader. Others come in sets of four such as TOMS 08003433 MHZ and RDE. Just like Ford, General Motors do have tire pressure sensors. The sensors often occur in two pairs but they all depend on the car model. All sensors have different GM part numbers but with same fitness. Example of the tire sensors includes ACDelco 13581558, TPMS sensor, 4X genuine sensors. OEM for Chevy GMC among others(Hart and James 289).

How sensors work

The major function of a sensor is to control. Sensors measure the physical quantity namely; temperature, light, pressure, humidity as well as sound (Hart and James 291 ). The sensors detect the changes in the factors and send signals to the processor. For instance, a security system may contain an alarm with an infrared sensor that sends a signal once the beam is broken. The sensors and actuators are integrated with computers that control the automotive. This increases the efficiency of the vehicle and improves its durability and reliability. The working of a sensor involves a process whereby there is initial input in the sensor, where the information is passed to micro controllers where processing occurs and later the information is passed out through the actuator. For instance, for light sensors, the sensor captures the lighting signal, and through an electric output, the signal is conditioned and passes through a voltage to the CPU, the actuator response in accordance with the system by converting the energy to mechanical motion. This is done through closing or opening of a valve at the CPU, the driver is able to see any detected problem in the lighting system( (Hart and James 293 ).

Sensor designs for Ford and GM

The common type of sensor that is used by both Ford and GM companies is the Mass Air Sensor. Sensors in many automobile companies use the MAF in their engine controls. The function of this sensor is to measure the volume of air entering the engine as well as its density. There are two major designs for MAF sensor (Ribbens and William ). The first design is an analog that produces a voltage output which varies. The other digital design produces an output with a constant frequency. However, both designs work under a principle known a “hot wire”. In their operation, a voltage that is constant is applied to the already heated wire. The wire is positioned in a sampling channel where the air flows constantly. Hence, the wire is heated by the electric currency which is produced by the voltage. The hot wire is known as PTC resistor. Therefore, the resistance corresponds to the changes in temperature. When the temperature is low, the resistance is high which allows more current to flow hence, maintaining the required temperature. For the GM design (Bosch), the heated wire always has a negative temperature coefficient unlike the general design of the sensor. This is because the MAF sensors have an internal “cold” wire that is used to send temperature information to the computer (Ribbens and William ).

As temperature goes down, the resistance of the wire increases. The thermostat operates similarly to a normal temperature sensor. However, the structures of the sensors vary from one manufacturer to the other. Conversely, Ford uses a hot wire MAF sensor. In Ford, the computer is set such that the computer gets information on any changes in the voltage. For example, a low or idle rpm sends a low frequency while a high revving engine sends high frequency to the set computer along with the signal wire. However, if there exists zero signal the computer sets a code within the set parameter.


Sensors in automobiles have been in existence over the decades and have continuously developed over the years. Sensors in automobiles have enhanced greater efficacy and efficiency for the motor vehicles in major companies. The General Motors and FORD companies have invested in upgrading the use of sensors especially in establishing the self-driven vehicles. Both the GM and Ford companies use different designs for sensors according to the model of the vehicles. Despite the difference in the designs of the sensors, the technology used is almost similar. Sensors are important as they detect any faults in a vehicle hence notifying any problem for rectification. However, all sensors are connected to computer systems for functionality. The sensors will enhance the development of self driving vehicles as this is a major advancement in the automobile industry.

Works cited

EngineersGarage. “Sensors: Different Types of Sensors.” EngineersGarage. N.p., 21 Mar. 2017. Web. 26 July 2017.

Fagnant, Daniel J., and Kara Kockelman. “Preparing a nation for autonomous vehicles: opportunities, barriers and policy recommendations.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 77 (2015): 167-181.

Frank, Randy. Understanding smart sensors. Artech House, 2013.

Halderman, James D., and Chase D. Mitchell. Automotive technology. Pearson, 2014.

Hart, James Michael. “General Motors Rear Wheel Drive Eight Speed Automatic Transmission.” SAE International Journal of Passenger Cars-Mechanical Systems 7.2014-01-1721 (2014): 289-294.

Jammoussi, Hassene, and Imad Makki. “Non-Intrusive Diagnostics of Oxygen Sensors.” SAE International Journal of Passenger Cars-Electronic and Electrical Systems 10.2017-01-1688 (2017).

Ribbens, William. Understanding automotive electronics: An engineering perspective. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2017.

Wiggins, Layne K., et al. “Engine control systems and methods with humidity sensors.” U.S. Patent No. 9,249,764. 2 Feb. 2016.

Need help with your homework? Let our experts handle it.
Order form