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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.

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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Slower Growth, But Opportunity Remains

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

While North American light vehicle production has been booming for five years, slower growth rates for the rest of the decade are expected. Yet plenty of opportunity remains for OEMs and suppliers alike, says IHS Industry Analyst Michael Robinet. Success will depend on flexible product design processes as well as efficient implementation of new technologies - both needed to keep pace with"significantly shorter" time periods between vehicle redesigns. The shorter timeframe, however, is precisely why Robinet sees opportunity.

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Autonomous Truck to Drive German Highways

Posted September 24, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Daimler has been granted permission to test its 18-wheel autonomousFuture Truck on public roads in Germany - the first time self-driving trucks will be allowed in everyday traffic. The company says the road trials will help it ready the technology and bring it to "series-production standard." Sensors, cameras, and steering intervention are used for self-driving operation. During the tests, a driver will be in the cab to take control if needed.

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4 comments; last comment on 09/25/2015
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Getting the Grid into the Driver's Seat

Posted August 26, 2015 8:51 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

The power industry is facing a tough dilemma when it comes to charging electric cars. On one hand, lots of consumers need to first invest in electric cars in order to justify the cost of implementing new charging system infrastructure. But, consumers aren't going to spend that money until car-charging is convenient. So how does industry best address infrastructure needs and reassure consumers in order to kick-start electric car adoption worldwide?Renewable Energy Focuslooks at some of the projects currently underway, but in this two-part series also stresses what changes need to happen first.

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5 comments; last comment on 09/24/2015
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