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Automotive Technology

The Automotive Technology Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about electrical/electronic components, materials, design & assembly, and powertrain systems. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Nonpetroleum Transportion Fuels Gain Ground

Posted June 26, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Over the past decade, the use of nonpetroleum transportation fuels has more than doubled in the U.S., from 4% to 8.5%. Petroleum still dominates, but more blending of biomass-based fuels and greater numbers of natural gas fueled vehicles are slowly changing energy consumption dynamics within the transportation sector. The share of nonpetroleum fuels will surely grow bigger when electric vehicles are taken into account. Currently, the U.S. Energy Information Administration associates electric charging stations with meters on residential, commercial, or industrial customer sites and does not include energy data from electric vehicles.

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Should Self-Driving Cars be Programmed to Kill You for the Greater Good?

Posted June 22, 2015 4:16 PM by Quasar

Imagine a situation in which several pedestrians have wandered into a crosswalk directly in front of a speeding school bus full of children. There are two options dictated by the laws of physics, taking into account the speed of the vehicle and its physical capability to retain traction and control. The bus can swerve off the road - risking the lives of its occupants - or continue on its path and hit the pedestrians. The best option may or may not be obvious to the human driving the bus. But what if the bus is not controlled by a human, but by a computer? What rules should govern its operation? What priority should be given to the safety of its passengers compared to surrounding vehicles and pedestrians?

The technology behind autonomous vehicles has matured to a point where self-driving cars are ready to hit the road. Volvo will have a self-driving car on Swedish highways by 2017. Google's autonomous cars have driven 1.7 million miles without causing an accident (although they have been involved in several minor accidents, which the company claims have been caused by other human drivers). Elon Musk claims the technology is mature enough to have self-driving Tesla's on major roads this summer.

Self-driving cars are an enticing prospect for many drivers. The ability to lean back and enjoy a movie, read a book, or browse the web on your daily commute is a luxury currently afforded only to those with a chauffeur or those taking public transit. But flipping on the autopilot comes with a cost: surrendering control over your choice to handle any situation that occurs, including those that will unavoidably bring harm to you or others.

By necessity, an automated driving system needs to make decisions governing the safety of the car's occupants and other drivers and pedestrians on the road. The question is the order of priority that each entity involved is given. Should the computer choose the best option for the car's owner, or should it attempt to minimize the total harm in any given situation.

Ultimately, this is a philosophical debate between utilitarianism and deontology. Utilitarianism argues that we should always act in the interest of the greatest good. A computer-controlled car should be programmed to preserve the safety of the greatest number of people.

On the other hand, deontology claims that we should act based on a set of rules that are always true. Since murder is always bad, a self-driven car should never be programmed to sacrifice its driver to keep others out of harm's way.

What do you think is the correct approach? Should autonomous vehicles even be allowed on the road?

53 comments; last comment on 07/03/2015
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Do You Like the Sound of Your Car? Manufacturers Will Make Sure You Do

Posted June 18, 2015 3:59 PM by gbb1277

Remember the days when we used to make the car noises with our lips while playing with our match box cars? With new and old technologies we are able to build engines that produce the power of the old but with the sound of new. And apparently the new sound (the sound of quiet) is not what people want. So car manufactures have taken it steps further.

Automotive designers in a lot of companies Ford, VW, BMW, Porsche just to name a few have either just begun or have been duping us for years. VW has been doing it in their GTI since 2010 and has now switched to the 'Soundaktor' (sounds like something from star wars) which is a speaker that plays engine sounds. Not to pick on VW because BMW uses speakers for enhanced engine noise as well. A lot of other car manufactures use some sort of resonator or amplifier connecting to the cars intake to enhance the cars already existing engine noise.

Here a link to what ford is doing with their new Ecoboost V6 trucks and mustangs.

I say that if these enhancements are in the cabin only go for it enhance away. But if you want to force more noise out of a quite car that we all have to hear then I say no! It's bad enough that every warm night in the pool has to sound like a fast and the furious movie already. So the question is: If we have improved our engineering of the internal combustion engine so much that we can produce smaller, more fuel efficient powerful engines that can make our cars faster, why mask that accomplishment with a lie?

6 comments; last comment on 06/30/2015
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Porsche Wants More from the IC Engine

Posted June 02, 2015 6:13 PM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Looking to boost power and fuel efficiency, Porsche has patented a variable-compression-ratio internal combustion engine. Intended to improve the compression ratios of turbocharged vehicles in particular, the new design uses simple mechanics to adjust the apparent length of the engine's connecting rods. This feature, when coordinated with the engine's combustion cycle, allows for "more turbocharger boost and more power." Commercial availability may be years away, but the company's long-term investment in pursuing the technology indicates its faith in the gasoline internal combustion engine as a "dominant powerplant in passenger cars."

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8 comments; last comment on 06/07/2015
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Giving Birth to a New Factory

Posted May 15, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Before you can program a machine tool, you need to design the space where that tool will work its magic. To accelerate that process for its clients, including automotive companies, Dearborn Mid-West worked with a specialist in 3D laser scanning to capture the dimensions of existing factory space. Then, as described in this report, the company integrated the captured data into already established processes and workflows, built on Autodesk's Factory Design Suite. Replacing traditional processes with a reality capture led approach provides a record of the real world rather than an idealized CAD layout.

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Should the OEM Own the Car You Paid For?

Posted April 29, 2015 12:34 PM by HUSH

Even 14 years after Napster was taken behind the woodshed and shot by copyrights lawyers, online piracy continues to thrive. Sure, it takes place in different formats, whether it's ripping songs off YouTube or tormenting anonymously, yet there has been no true solution for media piracy, just more hilariously-ironic advertisements.

When anything of worth becomes available, there is always money to be made or saved by making counterfeits or modifications (see: Chinatown, Manhattan, N.Y., USA). Now a new copyright legal fight is set to take place, one that will determine exactly how much of that car in your driveway you own. This upcoming July the Copyright Office will decide who owns the car you bought (not leased), you or the manufacturer.

It seems like nonsense-after all, you own the things you pay for, right?-but several manufacturers seem intent on interpreting copyright law to make it so they own their products forever. Car buyers are instead purchasing a user's license, not a product.

This all kicked off when John Deere recently submitted a comment in response to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 law that criminalizes all means to bypass digital rights management strategies. John Deere claims that the extensive coding found within all their modern agricultural equipment is subject to the DMCA, which inherently makes it and the hardware it commands property of John Deere. This is the same argument propped up for years by cell phone companies that allowed smartphones to be locked with certain companies-an argument that was eventually defeated.

Several automotive OEMs agree with John Deere, such as General Motors. Automotive OEMs pointed out that modifying the software of a vehicle could change how it operates, whether it's used for breaking the speed limit or emitting too much carbon exhaust. (Never mind that these are separate issues not related to copyright infringement.) Therefore the only solution is for people to own the hardware, but for them to have no say about what code runs through it, and to make it illegal for them being too curious about it, right?

This illustrates one of the fundamental problems with technology ownership. You can never regulate how people use things they bought. Once that transaction has taken place, people should be able to modify and hack devices however they please. Not only will this inspire ingenuity, but it could also improve cyber security as a whole. Many times white hats are prosecuted for exposing security risks, when they're trying to help or just explore. If the Copyright Office sides with the OEMs, this would also eliminate much of the self-service performed by at-home grease monkeys.

Apparently farmers are turning towards older equipment to prevent this sort of issue. If the Copyright Office ends up ruling in favor of the OEMs, many more classic and ol' beater autos are going wind up on roads. Now that could really screw up the emissions goals.

23 comments; last comment on 05/02/2015
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