Alps Alpine Develops and Begins Mass Production of Hands-Off Detection ECU for Autonomous Driving Systems

By Tiera Oliver

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

July 16, 2021


Alps Alpine Develops and Begins Mass Production of Hands-Off Detection ECU for Autonomous Driving Systems

Alps Alpine has a developed an electronic control unit (ECU) for hands-off detection to support autonomous driving systems by distinguishing between variations in a driver’s grip on the steering wheel.

Hands-off detection is a function for determining the status of the driver’s grip on the steering wheel that interacts with other systems for assessing driving status to enable safe switching between driver-controlled and system-controlled modes. Safety features are necessary given the ongoing sophistication of autonomous driving assistance systems, and legislation is progressing. Provisions under the R79 international regulation are one example.

Figure 1

According to Alps Alpine, the company has experience applying capacitive control technology to a range of sensor materials and environments spanning product domains from consumer electronics to automobiles.

Utilizing this knowledge, the company has developed the hands-off detection ECU for use with a special-purpose steering wheel capacitive sensor:

  • The industry-first four-electrode sensor (see Fig. 1): Whereas existing hands-off detection systems are mono-zone setups, with a single electrode, Alps Alpine has developed a multi-zone configuration with four electrodes (see Fig. 1). Per the company, dividing the steering wheel and grip patterns into smaller sections enables a more detailed assessment of driving status than a basic touching/not touching determination reached using an existing single-electrode sensor.
  • Original capacitive control ASICAlps Alpine developed an original capacitive control ASIC with improved durability and versatility for conformance to strict automotive standards.
  • Optimal algorithms for different applications: Steering wheel design, sensor material, electromagnetic compatibility…conditions vary from model to model, leading to variance in data obtained via the capacitive sensor. To accommodate the separate circumstances, Alps Alpine can supply an originally developed algorithm that seeks individual optimization, for example with parameter changes.
  • Failure self-diagnosis function: Reliability is enhanced by an original failure determination feature and the product conforms to ISO 26262, the international standard on the functional safety of electrical and electronic systems in automobiles.  

Alps Alpine will also put forward product proposals, representing examples of applied capacitive technology, for a range of human-machine interfaces (HMI) both inside and outside the vehicle cabin, not just hands-off detection. 

According to the company, mass production began in spring 2021 and the plan is to expand deployment to a range of vehicle models. Deliveries to steering wheel manufacturers began in spring 2021.

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Tiera Oliver, Associate Editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits, product news, and constructing stories. She also assists with newsletter updates as well as contributing and editing content for ECD podcasts and the ECD YouTube channel. Before working at ECD, Tiera graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.S. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university’s student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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