Sumitomo Riko


Sensing Technology

Promotion of Autonomous Driving, Sensors to Ascertain Safety

In level 2 autonomous driving the driver is the driving entity and in level 3 the system is the driving entity. Sumitomo Riko sensing technology detects whether the driver is holding the steering wheel correctly as it is necessary for the driver to hold the steering wheel when driving at unconventional times or at times of emergency. Furthermore, by installing a sensor in the seats, the sensor can detect the pulse and breathing of the driver and passenger and support a safer and more comfortable drive.


Developing technology to create a safer car-oriented society

While the system controls autonomous driving under certain circumstances, the driver is obliged by law to take hold of the steering wheel at times of emergency. As the camera recognition system contains a blind spot, it was necessary to create a system that can perform accurate detections.
Furthermore, due to the increase of elderly drivers, traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers has become a social problem. The reason for such accidents has been attributed to changes in physical conditions while driving, and as such, there is a need to resolve this issue from a technical standpoint.


Strive for "zero automobile accidents" through the development of a flexible sensor

We have developed a flexible “Smart Rubber (SR) Sensor” made of rubber or elastomer. Installed in the steering wheel, the sensor can detect the position that the driver is holding the steering wheel. As it is highly flexible device, the sensor can be installed without modifying the original steering design and feel, allowing the driver to drive without any strange sensations.
By installing the SR in the seats, it can measure pulse and breathing through the pressure on the seat surface. It provides a systematic structure to prevent accidents by ascertaining the health of the driver and detecting sleeping at the wheel and changes in physical conditions.

Related Products

Steering Touch Sensors

Steering Touch Sensors

The SR sensor is made of a special flexible material that conveys electricity and can be installed in the steering wheel. It detects the position that the driver is holding the steering wheel and supports the safe transition from autonomous driving to manual driving.

MONILIFE mobility (Driver Monitoring System)

MONILIFE mobility (Driver Monitoring System)

The SR Sensor is installed in the driver’s seat and detects biometric information (heart rate component, respiration component and other vital data) through pressure changes on the surface of the seat. It can also ascertain sleeping at the wheel, medical emergencies and other conditions that might affect the driver and connects such information to a warning and driver support system and other external traffic reporting services.


Sensing Technology

Improving the reliability of sensors essential
to the advancement of Autonomous driving

Advanced Systems R&D Center
Mobility Products Development Department

Masaki Nasu

Steering Touch Sensors
A sensor to support safe switching between Autonomous driving and manual driving by detecting whether the driver is holding the steering wheel correctly and in which position. This technology is the key to development of Autonomous driving.
Steering Touch Sensor

We aim to create an accurate sensor that keeps up with changes in the environment.

The steering touch sensor technology is essential to development of the first CASE field, “Autonomous: Autonomous Driving”. It is necessary for drivers to hold the steering wheel when certain conditions have not been met or at times of emergency, particularly during Autonomous driving level 2-3. At such time, the sensor detects whether or not the driver is holding the steering wheel and the positioning. It has an important role in supporting the safe transition from Autonomous driving and manual driving.
During the trial development period, this technology had already been partially adopted in other countries. After benchmarking products from other countries, we determined that there were issues with the onboard sensor. As the sensor is extremely sensitive, when installed in the vehicle, the material used for steering experiences slight changes due to environmental conditions such as the temperature inside and outside the vehicle, and this has an impact on its performance. Consequently, it is very difficult to maintain performance in all conditions. For example, it becomes even more difficult when there are extreme changes in temperature and rainfall. Our challenge is now to clear all these conditions.

Materials Development, Design, Mass Production. Day in and day out trial and error throughout all steps.

Originally, manufacturing electronic devices to be installed in vehicles was the first challenge for Sumitomo Riko. We first embarked on the development of new materials. Then, we searched for materials that could withstand environmental changes and we built upon our development on the molecular level by rearranging the formulation patterns of materials utilizing our core competence “polymer materials technology” mixing technology.
Next, we began to examine innovative manufacturing methods and high efficiency mass production systems to commercialize the new products that we created. As materials are not simply installed in the steering mechanisms and are required work together with other systems that move the vehicle, we searched for the best method not only within the company, but also with other cooperating companies.
In addition, as the product is ultimately required to be delivered to the customer, it was necessary to verify the simplicity of assembling the steering function. Each of these processes was a tough challenge only achieved by long periods of repetitive trial and error. In fact, it took almost five years to complete from the time we commenced development in 2010.

On to the next stage at the same time the product is completed.

The completed “Steering Touch Sensor” then became a product that displays reliable performance, even within the strict standards for automotive products. Furthermore, it reduces its impact on the environment by not using any adhesives during the manufacturing process. It has already been adopted by automakers and we will continue to refine the technology and improve quality, but we also plan to expand development into areas other than steering such as sensor devices to control all kinds of in-vehicle switches. Of course, this has applications in many fields other than the automotive field. Our challenge has just begun.

Sumitomo Riko


JP Tower Nagoya 1-1-1, Meieki, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya-shi,
Aichi 450-6316, Japan
Access map

Komaki Head

1, Higashi 3-chome, Komaki-shi, Aichi 485-8550, Japan
Access map