Evolution of sensor technology in cars

Have you ever been driving your car when a co-passenger offered voluntary instructions – like “there’s a car turning from the left” or “look out for the bus in front”? Or perhaps having someone assist you gives you peace of mind, especially when reversing or parallel parking. Like it or not, these little tips can be helpful on crowded, busy roads. But the good news is that they don’t necessarily have to come from your co-passengers. Today, most cars are fitted with an array of sensors that track almost everything happening inside and outside your car. These sensors gather data and pass it on to a computer for analysis. The sheer number of sensors that help the modern car achieve precise efficiency and enhanced safety is mind-boggling. Here are a few ways in which such sensors make motoring a safer, more enjoyable experience today.

1. Mass airflow sensor

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The mass airflow sensor measures the amount of air flowing into an engine’s cylinders, which are the combustion chambers where fuel is burned to generate energy that powers the car. Measuring the amount of air going into the engine is important because there is a limited amount of oxygen available in the air, and a proportional amount of fuel needs to be injected into the mix for efficient combustion. Too little or too much fuel and the vehicle won’t perform as required. One area where the mass airflow sensor can make a noticeable difference during significant changes in altitude. For instance, if you drove your MG Gloster from Mumbai to Leh, the mass airflow sensor would eventually detect less available air in high-altitude regions. It would then convey that message to the ECU – the car’s computer brain – which would direct the fuel injection system to adjust the fuel amount going into the engine while you’re in Leh. This way, the fuel injection system ensures you get consistent performance regardless of the temperature or density of the air available to it, thanks to its mass airflow sensor so that you can drive on without a worry.

2. Anti-Lock Braking System/Electronic Stability Program sensors

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These are possibly the most crucial sensors for safety in any vehicle, yet the principle they work on is straightforward. Individual sensors constantly measure each wheel’s speed against the vehicle’s actual speed, and in case of a discrepancy, trigger the system to reduce the difference. For example, in ABS, a wheel slowing down predicts a lock up and loss of control, so the brake for that wheel is released for a fraction of a second and reapplied to keep the car under control. This is done many times in a second for as long as the wheel shows signs of locking up. In reverse, the traction control looks after it – if a wheel spins up when the driver applies throttle, the vehicle applies that wheel’s individual brake and keeps the wheel and vehicle under control by preventing it from spinning out of control.

The Gloster also incorporates the ESP and Roll Movement Intervention (RMI) with another sensor called a Yaw Rate Sensor, which measures how fast the vehicle is going from side to side. The ESP has sensors that analyse the steering angle and tracks whether or not the vehicle is travelling in the same direction in which the front wheels point. If they are not, brakes are applied to the wheels individually to transfer grip and traction to the wheels that need it most. This ensures your Gloster is moving in the direction of the front wheels.

The MG Gloster takes all these provisions a step further by adapting their response to optimise grip and control for diverse terrain with its 7-mode All Terrain System. Among the modes available are Snow, Sand, Mud, and Rock, but you can also leave it on  ‘Auto’ and let this smart SUV decide which is best for the situation. The Gloster is also the only vehicle in its segment to offer an Electronic Differential Lock for the rear axle, which uses sensors to make sure power is transferred to the wheel that needs it the most in slippery conditions.

3. Adaptive Cruise Control sensors


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Cruise Control has been around for a while now, and it is accomplished fairly easily thanks to the computing power available. However, trying to maintain a steady speed even on an open highway can be challenging. This is because of minute uphill and downhill slopes on the highway, which can reduce your vehicle’s speed. Not only does the Gloster have a Cruise Control system, but it is an adaptive system. This means that the sensors analyse the distance to any vehicle in front and keeps a safe distance from it at all times with no intervention from the driver. That’s right – it will brake, accelerate, and even change gears as required!

4. Ultrasonic sensors and time-of-flight cameras

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Ultrasonic sensors are the parking sensors that let you know when you’re getting too close to an object near the car. They send out ultrasonic pulses and listen to the echoes, as a bat does, to gauge the distance between the car and the object in question. The MG Gloster employs ultrasonic sensors at both the front and rear to ensure you know exactly how far away you are from the adjacent vehicle or obstacle. And to make it even more convenient, it backs up the sensors with a 360-degree camera field of view. 

5. Forward Collision warning system and Automatic emergency braking

Speaking of cameras, the Gloster employs time-of-flight cameras for a very different reason. A time-of-flight camera measures the distance between the object it is mounted on and another object in the same way that an ultrasonic sensor does. But instead of using sound waves, a time-of-flight camera uses light emitted either by LEDs or a laser. This camera is used as part of its Forward Collision Warning System, which analyses the distance to the vehicle in front and alerts the driver if a collision is imminent. It will even apply the brakes automatically through its integrated Automatic Emergency Braking system.

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The MG Gloster uses these sensors in myriad other ways as part of its Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). Some of the convenience features that this system offers are: 

  • Automatic Parking Assist: Helps you park the vehicle with minimum to no input needed for the steering wheel 
  • Blind Spot Detection: Flashes light on the side mirror to warn you of an incoming vehicle.
  • Lane Departure Warning System: Continuously analyses whether the Gloster is safely in its lane or is straying out of it.

The technologies in car sensor applications are constantly evolving to become better and more sophisticated. And with the MG Gloster, you can experience these first-in-segment features, infusing everyday drives with increased safety and efficiency.