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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.

Not Ready for Prime Time

Posted April 01, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

The autonomous vehicle was at fault. That was the rendering of California's Department of Motor Vehicles regarding a recent accident between Google's self-driving car and a California bus. Perhaps more disconcerting, the autonomous vehicle - in a recent 15 month period - failed to take control on 341 separate occasions.

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23 comments; last comment on 04/04/2016
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On-the-Go Internet Service

Posted March 19, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Before 4G LTE communications have had a chance to become a standard feature in the connected car, a new technology has emerged that may take its place. Toyota has teamed up with Kymeta to develop an embedded flat antenna that mounts inconspicuously on the roof of vehicles and supports on-the-go satellite connectivity. The antenna, called mTenna, leverages software and liquid crystal technologies to acquire, steer, and lock onto any satellite (see video). What makes this technology so attractive? Satellite communications offer a global footprint and provide 1,000x more spectrum and higher transfer speeds than cellular services.

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A Safety Tolerance for Autonomous Cars?

Posted March 16, 2016 12:18 PM by HUSH

Personally, I've yet to even see a driverless car. At the moment, the New York state legislature is preparing to review bill A31, which would establish protocols for testing autonomous vehicles throughout the state. If passed, driverless cars could share roadways within a few months. New York will be an interesting testing ground for driverless technology, as traffic varies from congested metros to endless highways and rough terrain, sometimes with all four seasons experienced in a single day.

Not that I'm the least bit worried, though there could be some growing concern. On Valentine's Day last month, a Google autonomous car pulled out in front of city bus--it was the first case where a driverless car was clearly at fault for a collision. This came after several years and 1.3 million miles of road testing to date. Google engineers feel that the accident was a necessary lesson, and tweaked the car's driving algorithm to represent that large vehicles often behave differently in traffic than cars. Last November a Google car was pulled over for driving too slowly and impeding traffic.

In fact the majority of accidents with autonomous cars have been the fault of humans. In July 2015, all 14 incidents to date were due to human decision making. Tesla reported early issues with its autopilot system were because people expected too much from it. (Though perhaps they should have called it assisted driving, not autopilot.)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx believes that autonomous vehicles could reduce traffic accidents by 80%. He said that autonomous vehicles can't be held to impossible standards, when they are clearly an improvement on human drivers. In January, his office announced a $4 billion investment in developing and regulating the technology.

It's a very real possibility that due to all these events, the timeline for integrating larger masses of autonomous vehicles has accelerated. More states are allowing driverless cars to be tested and operated within their borders. Google (amongst others) are making swift changes to their driving technologies.

But do driverless technologies need to be 100% accurate? They're likely already better than human drivers, and there is always going be some risk or tolerance. Google engineers spoke about how imperative it is to get real world feedback. How does this conversation shift when the first fatal accident involving a driverless car occurs?

That will ultimately determine if 2020 sees the first waves of driverless cars as Google plans, or if more demanding standards need to be implemented, which could push the technology out another 5-10 years.

5 comments; last comment on 03/17/2016
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LIDAR — Key to Autonomous Vehicles

Posted February 14, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Successful operation of self-driving cars depends on light detection and ranging, otherwise known as LIDAR. Unlike radar or ultrasound technologies which are limited by longer wavelengths, LIDAR systems generate short wavelengths. The shorter wavelengths, in turn, translate to the precise angular and distance resolutions required for a vehicle to image its surroundings in 3D. While current systems rely on an old-fashioned mechanically rotating mirror, research is focused on developing more compact LIDAR systems with no moving parts.

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3 comments; last comment on 02/16/2016
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What the IoT Really Needs

Posted January 13, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

It's not really all that surprising that the Internet of Things is and will continue to be a boon for the microelectromechanical system (MEMS) and sensors markets. For now, consumer applications dominate the MEMS and sensor markets, but automotive and industrial applications, which once accounted for most of the market, are regaining importance as manufacturers implement IoT. In this piece atElectronics360, Jérémie Bouchaud, IHS Technology's senior director of MEMS and sensors, offers bullish forecasts for the MEMS market, including a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% over the next four years.

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Is Uber vs. Lyft a Proxy War for the Auto Industry?

Posted January 06, 2016 10:12 AM by HUSH

The new year is shaping up to be a battleground for Uber, Lyft, and their respective auto partners. Despite the fact that I live in a spot without coverage for any of these services, it remains an intriguing topic for the entire automotive scene.

Just Monday, General Motors announced it was investing $500 million in Lyft, which completed Lyft's $1 billion goal in venture funding. Lyft has largely been second fiddle to Uber in the U.S. and around the world, though some markets are only served by one or the other. However, Lyft has been forming regional alliances to help combat Uber's large market lead. In Lyft, GM sees the opportunity to be on the ground floor of an autonomous taxi revolution, and GM will start by establishing rental hubs for Lyft drivers so they don't have to use their own cars.

Other automakers have founded similar partnerships. Just before the holidays it was announced Google and Ford would cooperatively build a third company to develop and manufacture self-driving cars (Google doesn't have a stake in the ride-sharing game, for now). Last year, Uber claimed it would buy 500 million autonomous electric vehicles by the year 2020 if Tesla can make it a reality.

The result of these partnerships is symbiotic for both industries. Ride share companies will be equipped with the newest technology and be able to eliminate drivers. Higher profits will enable expansion, and could drive traditional taxis to near extinction in cities where business is already embattled.

Meanwhile automakers have a guaranteed market where technologies can be refined before a more widespread release to consumers that still need to own cars. This guaranteed market will be vital to future business, as some estimates believe automated cars could reduce America's consumer vehicle fleet by ten-fold. In the future, a family could own one self-driving car that transports everyone to different destinations, and this car could moonlight as an Uber or Lyft to make the family money while eliminating the need for individuals to own cars.

In a sense, the ride share business has become a proxy war for the ultra-competitive automotive industry. Automakers have identified the need for less cars as they become more advanced, so investing in ride sharing companies begins to align the auto industry with probable future auto markets.

Whereas each automaker has their own respective market segment, it's possible Lyft or Uber drives the other out of business, which could also doom a historic automaker or two. There's no point in speculating who will win, but this article indicates Lyft is generally a better service. Not only do passengers tend to enjoy a more pleasurable ride, but drivers enjoy working for Lyft more. Uber however, is typically quicker to respond to customers.

This could be one of those rare instances where customer service is the most important part of a business.

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