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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.

Cyberprotection for Robocars

Posted February 21, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

As connected, automated cars edge closer to reality, analysts begin to identify their pros and cons. While the possibilities conjure up excitement, the dangers give pause. In this IEEE Spectrum article, two experts sketch the extent of potential cyber threats, ranging from passive snooping and the jamming of transmissions to active manipulation and the introduction of false signals. To counter these vulnerabilities, the scientists recommend wrapping these vehicles in overlapping layers of armor, consisting of secure global navigation satellite systems, authentication based on encryption, and misbehavior detection technology.

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3 comments; last comment on 02/22/2015
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Faked Engine Noise is Overhyped

Posted January 28, 2015 10:15 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: auto engine noise fake order content

Last weekend the 2015 North American International Auto Show wrapped up, and on display were many innovations and trends, as noted by this Eng360 article.

To optimize vehicle performance and efficiency, many manufacturers have implemented driving modes for traffic jams, city stop-and-go, highway cruising, off-roading and every other terrain scenario imaginable. Some vehicles promised park-and-retrieve technology: the car drops you off at the door, parks itself, and can then be recalled with a few swipes on a smartphone. Other cars promised seamless HUDs, advanced lightweight materials or a new spree of Ferrari murders (looking suspiciously at you 2017 Ford GT).

Yet few vehicles featured quiet cabins. No truck model offered the most tranquil driving experience yet. There were no sports car advertisements of sleeping newborns in rush-hour traffic congestion. And no manufacturer promised, "The most realistic fake motor sounds in the industry."

Yet that's exactly what's being sold, and it's not really a bad thing.

Recent media hot air tries to portray manufacturers who amplify or falsify engine sounds as dishonest, when there are about a hundred better examples of automaker deceit. Modern motor vehicle cabins have become increasingly soundproof, and the natural purr of an engine has been reduced as fuel economy and power density become more important considerations. Some automotive engineers implement "order content" audio to mimic the cylinder firing sounds of V6 or V8 engines, while others purposefully run exhaust components through the cabin to increase engine noise.

Here are just a few of the order content offenders

  • Ford surveyed Mustang fan clubs to find which engine sound seemed the most Mustang-y, according to the Washington Post. The winning engine sound is played at low frequency in 2015 Ford Mustangs equipped with EcoBoost engines, because they're almost impossible to hear from inside the car. Older mustangs were known to route a second exhaust that made the car sound more powerful to the driver. A similar technique is used on the 2015 F-150. Apparently Ford thought the turbocharge Ecoboosts were too whiny.
  • The BMW F10 M5 has used a throttle-responsive engine play track since 2011.
  • The VW GTI uses the Soundaktor, a hockey puck-sized speaker mounted to the firewall that VW says amplifies the engine's real sound. It's circled in the image at right.
  • Harley Davidson admitted that a mid-90s redesign eliminated the "potato-potato-potato" sound of a classic Harley. In conjunction with Porsche, Harley tuned the air intake, tri-pass muffler and transmission gears to provide the iconic Harley sound.
  • Practically every hybrid or electric vehicle.

And then there's my favorite, the upfront Renault Clio 200 Turbo. It allows drivers to customize how their order content sounds, including like a GTR, motorcycle, spaceship or a classic Renault.

Really, all these automakers are trying to do is meet customer expectations. Even the youngest current car buyer was raised when cars sounded like cars. What that exactly means is completely subjective. Ten years from now, are car buyers going to expect the whirr of a hybrid or EV? Who can rightfully complain about fake engine sounds when car buyers might downright dismiss a vehicle for being too quiet?

There is the argument that listening to the real engine might help diagnose engine issues, but outside the folks at Hemmings, very few drivers are capable of identifying these nuances.

Ultimately, a quiet car is an advanced car. It means that technology and materials have progressed to the point that we're able to eliminate something that our automotive ancestors would have eliminated if they could. In a decade, we won't even care about what sounds the engine makes and how it feels because we won't be driving at all.

This is like the shutter sound when you take a digital photo--why synthesize something that so feels archaic?

25 comments; last comment on 01/31/2015
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Do Fluoropolymers Herald the End of the Car Wash?

Posted January 20, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

Imagine driving down a dirt road without ever having to clean the dust or mud off your car. Or, hiking a rugged, mucky trail and never having to pick the gunk out of your boots. Scientists are developing a new, self-cleaning material that may make getting dirty a thing of the past. The new material not only mimics the famous water repellent qualities of the lotus leaf, it also features chemical properties that can repel oil. "Fluoropores" are fluorinated super-repellent polymers, similar to non-stick Teflon, that can be applied to a roughened surface. The coating repels both water and oil and virtually eliminates the adhesion of particles, from dirt to paint to ice.

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1 comments; last comment on 01/25/2015
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Self-Service vs. Full-Service, That Is The Question

Posted January 14, 2015 10:17 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: gas petrol refuel station

For the first time in ages, five bucks is gas money. Most prices I've encountered in the Empire State are less than $2.75, and at least for now, there is no end in sight to the low prices. Count that as one less first-world problem.

Of course that doesn't mean there's nothing to complain about. See, I sometimes find myself filling my tank crossing the Lincoln Tunnel (when it's not being clogged by protesters) to make my way to New Jersey (on purpose). All the jug-handle turns are worth finding a full-service station, where I get to sit in my warm car while the attendant fills it, wipes the windshield and checks my oil, and the dollar tip makes it worth it for both of us.

New York, with the exception of Huntington (located on Long Island), doesn't require full-service gas stations. In fact, Oregon and New Jersey both make it downright illegal for drivers to fill their own tanks. In Oregon, the joke is that newborns are spanked with a sticker that reads, "No self-serve and no sales tax." In many ways, not pumping your own gas has become part of the culture. Now, Massachusetts has legalized hold-open clips, the mechanisms that keep gas nozzles depressed until the pump kicks off, signaling a full tank. Though hold-open clips may be prevalent elsewhere, they're still a rarity here in the Northeast.

So why can't we have nice things? Or at least, why can't we have helpful things, such as station attendants or hold-open clips?

Oregon and New Jersey cite unique concerns when dealing with gasoline. Its flammability is well-known, but that doesn't prevent absent-minded or just plain stupid people from smoking or keeping their car on when filling the tank. I've also observed the occasional gas-into-empty-milk-jug procedure. Gas also has toxic fumes, perhaps best handled by an employee that's been trained not to sniff them on purpose. Attendant jobs do keep a good number of low-skilled people employed in a minimal wage job that gets a decent bonus from thankful patrons. There is also the concern over increased criminality, whether it be from gas thieves or suspects preying on unsuspecting self-pumpers. In regards to hold-open clips, there was concern that people may reenter their car while the gas pumps fuel, generate a static charge from fabric-on-fabric friction, and then discharge within the vicinity of gas fumes (which does, quite rarely, occur.) Spillages because the clips didn't eject are also rare.

Yet in 2015, nearly all of these concerns are disputable. Stations are outfitted with powder extinguishing system that eliminates fire in the event of flammability. Cameras reduce drive-offs, muggings and gas sniffers. Eliminating the attendant will drop fuel prices, so its effect on the job market and economy is harder to ascertain. Nonetheless, even in Oregon and New Jersey, operators have recognized that full-service is superfluous; motorcyclists and diesel customers regularly fill their own tanks.

So, until robots are filling our tanks, or battery swapping replaces fill-ups, I'm stuck with the old ways of doing things, at least when I refuel in my home state. Yet with new attitudes about these traditions, and the slow tech upgrades to standard pumps, perhaps one day before those refilling my car with unleaded octane will be zero hassle. It will almost certainly jack up the price back up, but it might be worth it for the sake of convenience.

14 comments; last comment on 01/27/2015
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Preparing for a Driverless Future

Posted December 02, 2014 9:09 PM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

The emergence of the "connected" car marks the melding of information systems and safety devices, with mobile technology providing the catalyst for the transformation. This new kind of car promises to deliver unprecedented sophistication and automation that will ultimately change the relationship between the car and its driver. The Economist describes the layers of connectivity involved, the new bundles of technologies and services that will enter the market, and the budding class of providers who may displace traditional automotive technology suppliers. It also speculates on the rise of an entirely new transportation infrastructure.

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Turning Promising Prototypes into Real Products

Posted November 10, 2014 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

In the UK, there's an "unusual" manufacturing venture supported by the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel. Appropriately named "Proving Factory," the venture seeks to introduce new technologies that promote low-carbon emission vehicles. Engineering360 describes three. One combines a motor/generator with a magnetic continuously variable transmission. Another, a "power-shifting transmission," provides continuous torque to the wheels. A third technology improves upon the non-rare-earth, permanent magnet generator.

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