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How does an optical sensor work?

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All modern cars have a computer, in charge of monitoring the various systems. This central computer receives information from a collection of sensors that monitor things like oxygen, air pressure, air temperature, and engine temperature, to name a few. Using this information, the computer can control the car's parts to get the best performance from the engine while keeping emissions low. How do these sensors work? It depends on whether they are pressure sensitive or light sensitive. A pressure sensitive device can sense changes in pressure and emits an appropriate voltage in response to correct problems. These sorts of sensors are used in braking systems and collision avoidance systems, for example. Light-sensitive, or optical, sensors work very much like the wireless mouse technology in desktop computer systems. A small diode bounces light off a surface onto a sensor to form images. The sensor sends the data to a digital signal processor for analysis. This processor can detect ... more
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