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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.

What the IoT Really Needs

Posted January 13, 2016 12:00 AM by IHS 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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Could "Swarm Intelligence" Control Future Highways?

Posted December 19, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Building an Internet of Cars requires information - lots of it. Road gradients, curve radii, temporary speed limits, and lane changes due to construction work - not to mention speed limits and the actions of other drivers - will need to be continually processed and shared by all drivers in real time. Electronics360 reports how one system under test in Germany applies the capabilities of swarm intelligence and the cloud. Dynamic electronic horizon, or eHorizon for short, contributes to next-generation advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

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13 comments; last comment on 12/21/2015
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Automotive Headlights: What's Around the Corner?

Posted November 14, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

The era of low-beam/high-beam automotive headlighting is dimming. Two lighting technologies, already on display in Europe, show the path forward. One uses an LED matrix that automatically adapts to the direction in which the car is headed as well as the presence of oncoming vehicles. When paired with the car's global positioning system, an LED grid can even anticipate and light the curves ahead before the driver turns the wheel. The other new technology, laser headlights, offers a focused, long-range beam that can "double the reach of normal automotive high beams." Like LEDs, laser headlights can operate in an adaptive manner.

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3 comments; last comment on 11/15/2015
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Self-drive Vehicle Programs Roll On

Posted November 06, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

GM employees at the company's Warren Technical Center will soon gain an unusual perk:autonomous cab service. Using their smartphones, personnel at the R&D campus will be able to summons one of several self-driving Volts to haul them to their on-campus destination. After, the Volt parks itself until called on again. Autonomous vehicles may play a similar role in the 2020 Olympic Games. Toyota is testing a self-driving Lexus GS450h on a Tokyo highway. Even though the company is a relative latecomer to the autonomous field, Toyota plans to invest $50 million into vehicle artificial intelligence.

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Auto Emissions: the Lab vs. the Real World

Posted October 07, 2015 9:43 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: diesel emissions VW

Deservingly or not, Volkswagens have received some connotations over the years. Since VW delivered war machines to the Nazis in World War II, they're sometimes called "Nazimobiles." (*Please see addendum.) Here in the U.S. they can be expensive to fix, making them "brokeswagens." VWs--in particularly Jettas--also fall into the ill-defined category known as "chick cars."

Well I suppose we can start calling them something else: uhhh,…cheater-wagens?. (Anybody wanna help me out here?)

You see where I'm going. On September 15 Volkswagen was publically accused of installing defeat devices on its two-liter TDI diesel engines for the purposes of passing NOx emissions tests. In 2014, the International Council on Clean Transportation commissioned a study on diesel engine emissions. They discovered discrepancies in emissions levels. A 2015 follow-up report by scientists at West Virginia University discovered the real-world VW emissions were 5 to 35 times higher than stated and certified. They presented this data to the EPA, who on September 18 issued VW a notice of violation.

When vehicles are emissions tested, they are placed on a dynamometer and are tested according to EPA Federal Test Procedure 75. VW implemented firmware in the engine control unit that recognized when the car was being tested, and optimized engine conditions and fully-activated the NOx adsorber.

Under normal driving conditions, the software eased its emissions controls and gave the driver better torque and fuel efficiency. In total, 11 million VW and Audi vehicles are outfitted with this defeat device, and VW will spend more than $7 billion on a recall. Since NOx levels are higher with more efficient combustion and better fuel economy, eliminating the defeat device is going to put a dent into these vehicles' fuel efficiency.

VW has responded by suspending two engineers at the center of this "scandal." The truth is automakers have been doing this type of thing for years. In 1973, during the first wave of emissions regulations, Chrysler, Ford and GM were ordered to stop using temperature sensors that disabled pollution controls at low temperatures, when testing wouldn't occur. VW paid a $120,000 fine for similar technology that same year. In the mid-1990s, another wave of defeat devices were found in GM, Honda, Ford and heavy machinery vehicles. If the trend holds, we can expect more clever defeat devices from manufacturers in the mid-2030s.

In fact, according to a report from the ICCT, the average passenger car emits 40% more emissions during real-world driving than in laboratory testing. The truth is creating a car engine, diesel or gasoline, that is low in soot and NOx emissions, while also being fuel efficient, is a significant engineering challenge. Automakers have a few tricks they use to help beat regulations, especially in Europe where there are numerous legal loopholes. These loopholes include: removing vehicle extras to reduce weight; overinflating tires; using a sloped or smoothed test track; improving aerodynamics by taping over points of drag; and disconnecting the brakes to reduce rolling friction. (See page 26 of this .pdf report.)

So there aren't any problems with diesel. And there aren't any serious problems with VW (they're paying for their mistakes). But perhaps it's time for more realistic emissions testing. After all, gasoline and diesel aren't going away any time soon.

*Sincere apologies to any CR4ers offended by a comment about VW's WWII business with the Third Reich. It has been redacted because it is unimportant to the narrative of this post. However, eliminating it would be to act as if it was never written, or worse, never happened.

47 comments; last comment on 10/13/2015
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