Automotive Sensors

Sensor Review

ISSN: 0260-2288

Article publication date: 13 September 2011


Ayalew, B. (2011), "Automotive Sensors", Sensor Review, Vol. 31 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Automotive Sensors

Automotive Sensors

Article Type: Book review From: Sensor Review, Volume 31, Issue 4

Edited by John Turner,Momentum Press,New York, NY,2009,$89.95,256 pp.,ISBN: 978-1-60650-009-5,Web site:,

In modern vehicles, electronic control systems play an increasingly indispensible role in ensuring vehicle and traffic safety, in optimizing on-board energy use and reducing pollutant emissions, and in providing an extraordinary level of comfort and convenience functions. The growth of these electronic systems is facilitated by parallel developments in sensor technologies. This book is one of the few publications that attempts to comprehensively discuss the various sensors used in modern vehicle systems.


This is an edited book volume comprising of ten chapters (in 278 pages) authored by various contributors including the volume’s editor, Dr Joe Watson.

Chapter 1 gives an overview of the current state of the art for on-vehicle sensors, vehicle-based external sensors for driver support and safety, and sensors for vehicle-highway systems. It highlights powertrain sensors, sensors for anti-lock braking and traction control, tire-wheel systems, suspension control, adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance, vehicle environments (pedestrian, obstacle or blind-spot detection), and vehicle safety systems (crash sensors, etc.). It also highlights the range of sensors used in telematics for vehicle highway systems. Readers seeking a quick summary would enjoy this chapter, specially the summary tables listing the typical specifications/characteristics of powertrain sensors and vehicle external environment sensors.

The book’s other nine chapters address the working principles and typical in-vehicle applications of sensors for specific physical quantities. Chapter 2 on automotive pressures sensors provides a description of the primary pressures sensor types. Chapter 3 gives a description of the most common temperature sensing techniques. Chapter 4 outlines the operating principles of four common airflow sensors in automotive engine control. Chapter 5, dedicated to combustion sensors, is a well-motivated chapter that defines the need for and practicality of combustion sensors. It identifies optical (luminosity), electrical (ion current), and mechanical (pressure) sensors as the only serious candidates for real-time in-cylinder combustion control. A useful summary table categorizes 194 listed references detailing the suitability of these combustion sensor types as pertaining to combustion analysis generally, or as pertaining to aberrant or non-optimal combustion, or the determination of engine inputs and outputs.

Chapter 6 outlines the basics and applications of automotive torque measurement covering strain gauge type, torsion bars (with optical, capacitive and/or inductive signal coupling), non-contact magnetic methods. The author emphasizes the practical and cost challenges limiting the wider use of torque sensors, despite the real need for them in automotive applications. Chapter 7 addresses displacement and position sensors, and chapter 8 expands on accelerometers. Chapter 9 on gas composition sensors provides the motivation and some of the sensors for exhaust gas composition. A good portion is dedicated to EGO sensors, with brief outlines for CO2, NOx, CO, HC, and particulate matters. The final chapter, Chapter 10, is dedicated to liquid level sensors.

Overall assessment

This book attempts to put most of the existing information in automotive sensor technology in one volume. The main other notable publications that discuss automotive sensors in good detail are the books by Bosch (2004, 2005, 2006a, b, 2007). However, in these books, which, in many cases, provide better illustrations than this volume, readers typically have to first pick the right book title and identify the correct functional control system to learn about a specific sensor in the specific application/function. In this present volume, readers will be able to pick a chapter on, say, pressure sensors, and be able to cover different pressure sensor types, designs, their fabrication methods, and applications. This is a positive aspect of this book volume and many automotive engineers and engineering students may find this quite convenient.

Overall, the book is well written and organized. However, some sections have abbreviated or little discussion. There are also variations in the degree of detail provided in the different chapters. For example, I found Chapter 2 on pressure sensors and Chapter 5 on combustion sensors to be sufficiently detailed and well referenced, while Chapters 3, 4, and 10 provide a rather brief starting material to begin exploring what is available in the respective topics. Nevertheless, I believe many automotive engineers and practitioners would find this to be an informative reference volume on automotive sensor technology.

Beshah AyalewClemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA


Robert Bosch GmbH (2004), Automotive Electrics Automotive Electronics, Systems and Components, 4th ed., Professional Engineering Publishing, London

Robert Bosch GmbH (2005), Diesel-engine Management, 4th ed., Wiley, New York, NY

Robert Bosch GmbH (2006a), Gasoline-engine Management, 3rd ed., Wiley, New York, NY

Robert Bosch GmbH (2006b), Safety, Comfort and Convenience Systems, Function Regulation and Components, Wiley, New York, NY

Robert Bosch GmbH (2007), Automotive Handbook, 7th ed., SAE, Warrendale, PA