Special Feature: Future of Car Electronics

New Age Automobiles, Dreams about Car Life of the Future

Familiar Vehicles Getting Smarter

The archetypal automobile was created during the late 19th century. Since then, automobiles have been serving as a mode of transportation and a source of entertainment.

Three basic functions of automobiles are driving, turning and stopping.
With the introduction of electronics, and a newly gained ability to detect information and communicate through networking, cars are now transforming into a system capable of collecting and communicating information from every part of the vehicle.

Receiving information about the car around you, combined with transmitting your own position and control information to others can help prevent accidents.
Cars are starting to contribute significantly to our society by evolving into intelligent vehicles.

But, this is only the beginning.
Intelligent vehicles will offer safety, comfort, ease of operation, and environmental considerations.
This is the start of a new era for automobiles.

New Age Automobiles, Dreams about Car Life of the Future

The Realm of Intelligent Vehicles Is about to Open Its Door

To cars, innovation in electronics means increasing their value through enhanced safety, comfort and environmental considerations. There is also an element of entertainment, the pure joy of driving. Safer, more comfortable and fun, cars released from now will be full of new dreams. The new intelligent car culture has just begun.


Safety is the most important element for automobiles. Electronics can not only be used for releasing air bags, braking and steering, but can anticipate danger and warn a driver. For example, image sensors, image processing technology and communication technology together can realize the feature to watch out for night-time pedestrians. Intelligent cars can see what drivers cannot see to become a determining factor for ensuring safety.


Environmental considerations are essential for modern car technology. Environmental technologies currently under focus include clean air technology and energy-saving technology. Key strategies for their realization are increasing fuel economy and making bodies lighter. Efficient use of energy and less CO2 emissions is the common theme for the future society. Through HEV (hybrid electric vehicles) , EV (electric vehicles) and fuel cell vehicles, electronics is at work to solve automobile-related environment problems.


Stress-free and comfortable driving becomes possible by taking a big load off drivers' responsibility. For example, space between cars may be kept constant by use of radar. The car may monitor the driver's face angle with a video camera, and warn when he is looking away from the road too long. Electronics can make car interior a comfortable space for drivers by controlling air-conditioning, and making music and videos available wirelessly.

Automatic Control

Intelligent cars are en route to automatically-controlled driving. For example, a car can control the engine or brake automatically when receiving vehicle-to-vehicle data communication or traffic information through traffic infrastructure. Or a car may steer the vehicle into a garage or change lanes automatically. Sensors and communication networks are at the core of these technologies. A big challenge to the automotive industry is how they may gain trust by drivers.


Gasoline-driven motor vehicles have about 130 years of history. Cars have been benefiting from technologies of each passing era, developing right along with the human society itself. Innovative automobile technologies, one by one gave birth to landmark vehicles of the time. And now, intelligent vehicles are about to realize much bigger dreams.

Intelligent Vehicles Coming to Reality

Column History of Wheels

History of Automobiles Will Be Rewritten A Grand Opportunity for Murata's Devices Bringing Intelligence to Automobiles

Highly reliable devices withstand stringent operating conditions, and they are becoming ever smaller, more energy-saving and information-savvy. Our total manufacturing strengths accelerate automobiles into the future.

Electronics is integrated into cars in aims to realize safer and more comfortable driving, as well as people- and Earth-friendliness. Murata's high-reliability devices capitalize on the heat resistance property of ceramics, and are applicable to electro-mechanical integration, exemplified by integration of the engine's electronic control and mechanism. High-reliability devices also contribute to energy-saving by helping make ECU (Electronic Control Unit) smaller. Hardware and software technologies are aggregated to produce devices that can withstand stringent operating conditions such as extreme temperatures and long service life through total manufacturing. Murata's sensor and network technologies will transform cars of the future into information systems. Future of cars is full of possibilities – an era of intelligent vehicles is about to begin.

Murata's electronic devices to help make cars intelligent

Sensing Devices

Ultrasonic Sensors
Ultrasonic Sensors

We have succeeded in making smaller and highly reliable waterproof ultrasonic sensors based on Murata's own longstanding ceramic and ultrasonic designing technologies. Strong increase in demands is expected for this unit, implemented to the parking assist system, as the usage rate continues to increase.

Shock Sensors
Shock Sensors

This is a device to convert acceleration (shock) to electric signals. It was initially introduced to be used for shock detection of hard discs. For car applications, it is used for tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and as a backup sensor for airbags.

Environment-Friendly Devices

Safety Standard Certified Capacitors for PHEV/EV
Safety Standard Certified Capacitors for PHEV/EV

When recharging plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) or electric vehicles (EV) from external power sources, capacitors have a chance of being exposed to high-voltage surges. We have commercialized industry-first safety standard certified capacitors for car applications, capable of withstanding such surges. They are highly reliable offering a 1000-cycle guarantee for temperature cycles*.

Monolithic Ceramic Capacitors for High Current
Monolithic Ceramic Capacitors for High Current

Ceramic capacitors are easier to make smaller and withstand higher temperature compared with film capacitors and aluminum electrolytic capacitors. We have made ceramic capacitors for power electronics applications by reducing ESR (equivalent series resistance) , achieving high withstand voltage and large capacity. Having a larger capacity enables ceramic capacitors to penetrate new markets by replacing other types of capacitors.

Communication Modules

Connectivity Combo Modules
Connectivity Combo Modules

Combo modules combine Wi-Fi® and GPS or Bluetooth® and GPS. A Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi® combo module will be released in 2013. Automobile networking will become more powerful by linking with smartphones or tablets in vehicles.

MEMS Sensors


Accelerometers were developed based on micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) technology. Being able to measure gravity, vibrations, motions and shocks, they can find many automobile applications. They have been introduced in systems critical to basic car performance, such as electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) .


Measurement of incline in forklifts and cranes is mandated in many countries. Inclinometers measure vertical or horizontal incline angles from the Earth's gravity to prevent accidents and improve safety. Inclinometers are now finding automobile applications as well.

Gyro Sensors
Gyro Sensors

A gyro sensor is an inertial sensor measuring angular velocity (rotating speed) generated by a rotating motion and converting angular velocity to an electric signal. It is used for automatic navigation and improving position detection precision in car navigation systems. It is also introduced in electronic stability control (ESC) in combination with an accelerometer.

*A test repeating over 1000 temperature cycles between -55°C and +125°C

Special Interview Automotive Electronics: From a Motor Journalist's Perspective

Modern Electronics Supports Automotive Technology to Allow Drivers to Enjoy Driving by Improving Car Safety / Seiji Tanaka, Editor in Chief, Car Graphic magazine

Born in Tokyo in 1975, Tanaka studied material science at university. Living and studying in a rural area in those days made him wake up to the pleasure of driving. He aspired to be an automotive engineer, but learned that some of his older schoolmates joined major businesses and were assigned jobs unrelated to what they had majored in at university. This made him wish to get a job that was directly related to cars no matter what. He carried out his wish and became a Car Graphic editorial reporter. In 2000, he was appointed to found UCG, a magazine specialized in used imported cars, as Editor in Chief. In 2003, he returned to Car Graphic and has served as Editor in Chief since 2010. As he dreamed when he was a student, he now indulges in the pleasure of driving every day.

The monthly automotive magazine Car Graphic celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In addition to presenting new vehicle models, it has the editorial policy of focusing on stringently neutral critiques and useful information collected overseas, while at the same time filling its pages with attractive photos. We interviewed Seiji Tanaka, Editor in Chief at this major Japanese car magazine, and asked him how he sees modern automotive electronics.

Electronics Produced Real Effects in Cars in the Late 1980s

Cars first benefited from electronics around 1980, as the anti-lock braking system (ABS) was introduced to prevent wheels from being locked during braking. Later, the traction control system (TCS) allowed the vehicle to respond to the driver's gas pedal command only when tires had good road contact. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) , which stabilizes the vehicle position in bends to prevent skidding, was first spread in Europe and the United States. Since December 2010, it has been a legal obligation to include this technology in all cars distributed in Japan. As these examples suggest, electronic control has been spread in cars since the late 1980s.

Progress in Micro-Computing Integration Led to Centralized Control

If you control automotive functions separately, you need a CPU for each control system. Scores of microcomputers were once installed in one vehicle. These were then further integrated to reduce cost, cabling, and the number of components. In this integration trend, components were required to achieve safety levels just as high as those required for vehicle systems. And as these requirements were fulfilled, even more electronics were introduced in cars. Today, you can use the navigation screen to control the air-conditioner as well as the running gear. Networking technology allows the driver to simply look at the screen on the center console to understand the vehicle's current operating conditions. Technologies premiered in concept cars in the beginning of this century are now available in series production models with even higher safety and reliability.

Improvement and Spread of Suppliers' Technology

Just like automakers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers contribute greatly to the increasing use of electronics. A good example is the system that detects the risk of collision and activates automatic braking. Once an automaker introduced it, it spread to other manufacturers in a flash. This is because the system's supplier supplied the technology it had established firmly. You might think this increases the number of cars that are similar to each other, but you are wrong. Each automaker has a philosophy of its own. And its philosophy is reflected in the aspects of the brand image such as design, drive feel, and sportiness, as well as development engineers' priorities.

Safety Systems Ensure Motoring Pleasure

Power is one of the greatest pleasures you get from driving a car. Modern cars deliver levels of horsepower that would have belonged to the realm of science fiction just a few decades ago. In the past, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association had voluntary safety regulations that limited peak engine output to 280 horsepower. But today you can drive cars with 300, or even over 500 horsepower. This has been made possible by the advancement of safety technology. The advanced technology allows drivers to feel completely safe even when they are behind the wheels of vehicles delivering such mind-blowing levels of power. Just think of two types of cars: One permits tire slippage until it comes to the car's physical limits. The other prevents slippage immediately at the very first sign. It's easy to stop tires from slipping at the very initial stage, but this detracts from driving pleasure. It's more fun if you can handle the gas pedal and steering wheel even when tires are slipping. The first type of technology challenges the physical limit of the car, as it were. It requires more time and labor to study it, and it is much more difficult to achieve than to stop tires from slipping at the slightest sign. But manufacturers that emphasize unique driving dynamics have such technology. And even the same manufacturer offers different dynamics depending on the model. Such differences reflect the development engineers' philosophy.

Future Progress in Autonomous Driving

An issue we need to focus on from this point on is how much progress autonomous driving will make. It is said to have already been established in theoretical terms, but it has yet to achieve sufficient levels of reliability. At present, people believe the driver should have the final responsibility, but that is because they have no notion of autonomous driving. From this point on, we will need to change our traditional concepts of social systems, such as insurance, for example. Some people will surely ask if autonomous driving will really make for safer mobility. But one thing is certain – without electronics, automotive technology wouldn't have made such great progress. Without a doubt, electronics will open up a new future for cars in both terms of dynamics and safety.