Suppliers move into growing sensors market



As vehicles become more connected to internet and cloud services, an increasing array of sensors is being developed for every aspect of vehicle management

Last week saw the announcement that Sensata Technologies has agreed to acquire the Schrader group of companies from Madison Dearborn Partners for USD1 billion. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2014. The news comes as Infineon Technologies and International Rectifier Corporation also sign an agreement under which Infineon will acquire International Rectifier.

The acquisition significantly strengthens Sensata’s presence in the rapidly growing tire sensors market. Sensata is a major provider of sensors for the global automotive industry with Sensata sensors used in vehicle’s engine, transmission, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), suspension and safety systems, amongst others. “The acquisition of Schrader extends Sensata’s leadership position in pressure sensing and provides further access to a rapidly growing USD2 billion low pressure sensor market where the largest current opportunity is in tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS)” said Martha Sullivan, president and CEO of Sensata.  “Additionally, Schrader’s expertise in MEMS sensing, wireless communications and ASIC design will be highly complementary,” she added.

Through the latest acquisition of Schrader, Sensata will become a major player in the global TPMS market, which is witnessing rapid growth, driven by growing regulations in areas of safety and further improvements in fuel economy. TPMS fitment has been mandatory on new vehicles in the United States since 2008 and in the European Union since November 2012.

The value of sensors – not only in tires, but across the vehicle – is set to dramatically increase over the next decade, as they go from providing local telematic data and become increasingly connected to the internet and the cloud based services. At the recent ECM conference in Barcelona, Dr. Matthias Klauda, Automotive Systems integration at Bosch, showed the potential of a purely automotive cloud for connected services in vehicles, providing data on engine running and infotainment services or fleet management vehicle diagnostics.

Other recent sensor developments include:

  • Infineon is developing a new TLE4966V, a vertical dual-hall sensor which provides information on rotation and speed.
  • Continental is developing tire pressure sensors that will be able to detect when a tire change is necessary due to insufficient tread depth. They expect that the sensor will be seen on 2017 model year vehicles
  • TT Electronics, a UK-based manufacturer of electronic products for the automotive industry, has developed a new sensor that combines TT Electronics’ non-contacting torque and multi-turn position sensors in a single compact package.
  • Volvo is developing a sensor-based system to analyse a driver’s state to recognize and distinguish whether a driver is tired or inattentive. Per Landfors, engineer at Volvo Cars and project leader for driver support functions, said, “This will enable the driver to be able to rely a bit more on their car, and know that it will help them when needed.”
  • Freescale launched its intelligent battery sensor for automotive and industrial use which combines a 16/32-bit MCU, and a CAN protocol module in a single package and measures key battery parameters for monitoring state of health (SOH), state of charge (SOC) and state of function (SOF) for early failure prediction.

They have the potential in the future to extend well beyond the vehicle alone, such as greater efficiency of city traffic. But currently, on the vehicle side, there needs to be an electrical/electronic system able to handle the influx output of data, which is not available with the currently existing architectures. Recent announcements such as those above show that sensor suppliers are looking at the potential to monitor every aspect of the vehicle. Bosch is building these types of architectures and expect them to be ready around 2018-2019. With major tier one suppliers setting their sights on providing connected car services, the value of sensors that provide data on every aspect of the consumer and fleet driving experience is set to grow exponentially.