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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.

Rotary Engines Reimagined

Posted March 18, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

The last rotary engine-powered production vehicle rolled off the Mazda assembly line in 2012. Since almost all conversation regarding the future of rotary engines begins and ends with Mazda, auto enthusiasts are wondering, will Mazda revive its rotary engine? Perhaps with some unique — and even mysterious — ideas about how to do so.

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8 comments; last comment on 03/22/2017
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Method to Mass Produce Complex Composite Parts

Posted February 09, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Composite materials are increasingly being used by automakers to reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy; however, because of the expense and complexity of many composites, these materials have been relegated largely to luxury-class vehicles. Now, a new process provides for the cost-effective mass production composite parts could change that.

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What is Driving MEMS for ADAS Applications?

Posted January 15, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Safety and convenience are driving the move from assisted driver systems to autonomous vehicles. The combination of the performance requirements and cost makes microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors a valuable automotive solution.

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Autonomous Cars Could Dwindle Organ Donation Supply

Posted January 04, 2017 10:18 AM by HUSH

More and more Americans are dying in roadway accidents. It is an unfortunate truth of our time of distracted driving and overburdened thoroughfares. In fact, 2015 saw an eight percent increase in traffic fatalities over 2014, the largest year-over-year increase in more than 50 years. By comparison, 2014 saw a half-percent increase, while 2013 saw a three percent decrease.

Final data is still being tabulated, and early returns showed another bull market for traffic fatalities in 2016, with a 10-plus percent increase expected over 2015 as of October. Due to the recent remarkable and tragic increases in traffic deaths, the U.S.’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Safety Council launched the public safety program Road to Zero, with the purpose of outright eliminating traffic fatalities by 2046.

Road to Zero has several initiatives which will help jump start this program in the present, such as seat belt campaigns, road behavior campaigns, public service announcements, and data-driven enforcement. Yet improved automotive safety is a cornerstone to the Road to Zero program, and obviously self-driving autos are the most obvious choice if one were to bet on which technology could deliver zero traffic deaths within thirty years.

Clearly autonomous autos aren’t there, quite yet. But IHS Automotive is predicting 21 million autonomous cars by 2035, with about 20 percent of those in the United States, and the numbers growing from there. The Road to Zero program acknowledges that eliminating or nearly eliminating traffic deaths by 2046 is also going to take equal parts education, enforcement, emergency response and engineering, but the goal is quite feasible.

Of course there are many secondary and tertiary factors to the transportation revolution, such as how self-driving cars could reshape many industries and social factors. Yet one of most overlooked consequences of autonomous cars could be its effects on organ donation and transplants.

By current estimates, one in five donated organs comes from the body of an individual who has died in a car accident (and more so for bikers). If self-driving cars can fulfill even a fraction of their promised safety enhancements then the inventory of donation-eligible organs begins to decline rapidly. Yet the organ waiting list has nearly doubled to 123,000 since 1999.

So how will dwindling supply meet increasing demand? Since the 1980s it has been illegal to sell organs in the U.S., but reversing this decision will be difficult to police and regulate, spark wealth injustice issues, and bring about many other controversies without much of an organ payoff. France recently went from on opt-in organ donation system to an opt-out. Basically, all healthy individuals are considered organ donors if they die prematurely, unless they have paperwork in place to prevent organ harvest. But such a policy has never gained traction despite being introduced in several U.S. state legislatures. Israel has a policy of moving organ-needy patients up on the donation list if they have family members who are organ donors, but there is an ethical argument to be had here as well.

Instead, the best chance at reinvigorating organ supply lies with 3D tissue printing. This is a technology that is even further behind than autonomous cars in its development, but is very much a possibility. Organovo’s NovoGen MMX bioprinter is arguably the most advanced bioprinter today. Currently the company sells ‘bioficial’ organs and tissues to pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies so they can test products. Eventually Oganovo wants to produce transplantable organs, most likely from stem cells.

As the saying goes, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” What saves thousands of drivers might cost thousands of patients. Of course, this isn’t an argument against autonomous autos, but rather an argument for 3D printed organs, as some of the other potential solutions (such as selling organs) could result in a waking up in a strange bathtub full of ice and a kidney missing.

14 comments; last comment on 01/09/2017
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Cities Pledge to Ban Diesel Vehicles

Posted December 28, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Diesel vehicles are expected to be banned from the roads of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, and Athens by 2025. Mayors of these cities are actively pursuing policies that improve air quality. The initiative will include policies to incentivize alternative vehicles and promote walking and cycling infrastructure.

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