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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.

Giving Birth to a New Factory

Posted May 15, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

Before you can program a machine tool, you need to design the space where that tool will work its magic. To accelerate that process for its clients, including automotive companies, Dearborn Mid-West worked with a specialist in 3D laser scanning to capture the dimensions of existing factory space. Then, as described in this report, the company integrated the captured data into already established processes and workflows, built on Autodesk's Factory Design Suite. Replacing traditional processes with a reality capture led approach provides a record of the real world rather than an idealized CAD layout.


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Should the OEM Own the Car You Paid For?

Posted April 29, 2015 12:34 PM by HUSH

Even 14 years after Napster was taken behind the woodshed and shot by copyrights lawyers, online piracy continues to thrive. Sure, it takes place in different formats, whether it's ripping songs off YouTube or tormenting anonymously, yet there has been no true solution for media piracy, just more hilariously-ironic advertisements.

When anything of worth becomes available, there is always money to be made or saved by making counterfeits or modifications (see: Chinatown, Manhattan, N.Y., USA). Now a new copyright legal fight is set to take place, one that will determine exactly how much of that car in your driveway you own. This upcoming July the Copyright Office will decide who owns the car you bought (not leased), you or the manufacturer.

It seems like nonsense-after all, you own the things you pay for, right?-but several manufacturers seem intent on interpreting copyright law to make it so they own their products forever. Car buyers are instead purchasing a user's license, not a product.

This all kicked off when John Deere recently submitted a comment in response to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 law that criminalizes all means to bypass digital rights management strategies. John Deere claims that the extensive coding found within all their modern agricultural equipment is subject to the DMCA, which inherently makes it and the hardware it commands property of John Deere. This is the same argument propped up for years by cell phone companies that allowed smartphones to be locked with certain companies-an argument that was eventually defeated.

Several automotive OEMs agree with John Deere, such as General Motors. Automotive OEMs pointed out that modifying the software of a vehicle could change how it operates, whether it's used for breaking the speed limit or emitting too much carbon exhaust. (Never mind that these are separate issues not related to copyright infringement.) Therefore the only solution is for people to own the hardware, but for them to have no say about what code runs through it, and to make it illegal for them being too curious about it, right?

This illustrates one of the fundamental problems with technology ownership. You can never regulate how people use things they bought. Once that transaction has taken place, people should be able to modify and hack devices however they please. Not only will this inspire ingenuity, but it could also improve cyber security as a whole. Many times white hats are prosecuted for exposing security risks, when they're trying to help or just explore. If the Copyright Office sides with the OEMs, this would also eliminate much of the self-service performed by at-home grease monkeys.

Apparently farmers are turning towards older equipment to prevent this sort of issue. If the Copyright Office ends up ruling in favor of the OEMs, many more classic and ol' beater autos are going wind up on roads. Now that could really screw up the emissions goals.

23 comments; last comment on 05/02/2015
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Cars Go Optoelectronic

Posted April 17, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

Optoelectronics - including LEDs, optocouplers, and infrared components - have increasingly supplanted more conventional electronics, especially in automobiles. LEDs, with their higher efficiencies and longer lives, have replaced incandescent bulbs, reducing power consumption in display backlighting and headlights, including daytime running lights (now mandatory in the EU). Infrared detectors can determine whether to switch on headlights or turn on windshield wipers. This video looks at the growth.


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Printing a Car

Posted April 14, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS GlobalSpec eNewsletter

Is it feasible to print a car? That's the question the 3D Printed Car Design Challenge recently took on. Using a 2 x 4 x 0.9 m printer capable of depositing 17 kg/hr, the winning entrant completed the 454 kg main body structure in 47 hours (watch). Composites World reports that an even bigger printer currently in development will do the same job in less than 24 hours and produce parts double the size of the current machine.


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1 comments; last comment on 04/14/2015
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Autonomous Cars: More Questions Than Answers

Posted April 01, 2015 9:43 AM by HUSH

At this point, autonomous cars are a given, right? Pretty much every automotive discussion needs to involve the impending availability of driverless autos. This coming summer (if it ever truly arrives), Tesla will supply all models with an over-the-air software upgrade that will provide cars with some of the rudimentary concepts of driverless tech: park-and retrieve and highway autopilot. While highway autopilot has been featured on some high-end brands before, it's interesting to see that Tesla has been preparing their products for this essentially from the beginning.

These vehicles will constitute an L3 vehicle according to the Society for Automotive Engineers, which has devised 6 classes of automated vehicles. An L0 vehicle has no automation whatsoever, while an L5 has complete automation with zero human involvement. Within this range vehicles require varying degrees of human intervention. By 2035, IHS predicts that there will be 51.4 million L5 vehicles on global roadways (though it's a fraction of the expected 2 billion passenger vehicles overall).

Many words have been spent on the technology developments that need to take place to make the autonomous car a reality, as well as how automakers are going to keep them safe from hackers. Less text has been spent on all the peripheral changes that need to take place in how we regulate and maintain our autos.

First, will autonomous cars completely abolish the driver's license? Obviously some form of government ID will be needed, but taking an exam to earn a permit to learn how to drive will be superfluous. However, what's to stop an adventurous 7-year-old from driving to the toy store, or a rebellious teen from driving away from home? Sure, a parental control and GPS tracker can solve this, but how do we know when individuals are mature enough to make their own destination decisions? Do we lower the "driving age"? Do we let parents decide when kids can ride around in the auto-car? California's DMV has offered autonomous vehicle licenses as of last fall, but only to qualified individuals who already possess a typical license. This clearly won't and can't be the status quo once L5s are common.

Personal responsibility remains a huge threat on the road. Too many people text while driving or drive drunk. Thankfully, autonomous cars will eliminate these threats completely. Heck, they'll probably eliminate fender benders and door dings from parking to close too. So what does this do to auto insurance? Do rates bottom out, or is the concept eliminated all together? (Insurance giants aren't going to go down quietly.) After all, in an L5 vehicle, the human will have zero responsibility for what happens on the road. So if an accident happens, injury-causing or not, who pays? The automaker? The programmers?

Also, assuming that L5 vehicles overtake the car market en mass, what happens to the billions of driver-needing cars around the world? Are they converted to be autonomous? Are they outlawed? Elon Musk expects they'll become illegal, but here in the U.S., it will be like trying take our guns-not going to happen in a country built on firearms and backfire. And are the millions of classic cars and enthusiasts going to accept that their hobby/passion isn't the same? Not likely.

Clearly, the autonomous car revolution offers many, many more questions than solutions. Inevitably each of these will questions will have an answer, but the autonomous car market may be chaotic in the meantime.

1 comments; last comment on 04/04/2015
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A Look at Google Driverless Cars

Posted March 26, 2015 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

The Google Self-Driving Car, powered by Google's innovative program Google Chauffeur, is certainly making waves in the driving world. With human error accounting for the vast majority of automobile crashes, as well as older drivers losing the ability to drive as well with confidence, it seems like the Google Self-Driving Car is the all-around cure for human-on-human road rage and traffic accidents.

Sebastian Thrun, Google engineer, is the current Self-Driving Car project leader, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and co-inventor of Google Street View. He created the robotic vehicle "Stanley" back in 2005, winning that year's DARPA Grand Challenge and its $2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The team that developed that particular system consisted of 15 Google engineers, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski.

State legislation has been successfully passed to make Google Self-Driving Cars street legal for four U.S. states (California, Nevada, Florida, and Michigan), as well as Washington, D.C., with a third state legislation currently in review for stating criteria in the state of Texas.

Google engineer and project team member Urmson says, "We're spending less time in near-collision states. Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers." This statement was prompted by the official road test in which the Google Chauffeur program was placed in the computers of a Prius and Lexus, and proved that while the professional drivers had sharper turns and brakes, the Google Self-Driving Car program proved to run more safely and smoothly through common road obstacles and general routes through a closed test driving course.

Despite the promising applications for people everywhere who are unable or otherwise gradually losing the ability to drive to remain mobile, there are safety concerns among the general public about how truly safe the Google Self-Driving Car will be in the long run. Seapine Software composed a study in February among 2,000 U.S. adults, and the results revealed that about 88% of them would be concerned about driving in a self-driving car, with the main cause for concern being a software malfunction or safety glitch. "We found, not surprisingly, that safety was the number one concern that survey respondents noted for their reluctance to adopt driverless technology," said president and CEO of Seapine Software, Rick Riccetti. "That means that until manufacturers - in this case Google - can prove, without a doubt, that their product is free from software glitches or failures there simply won't be a market for them for the average consumer."

Despite the obvious questions of safety, as well as more liability-related issues, such as who would be at fault in the case of a potential collision between two driverless vehicles, it's clear that only time will tell in the case of this new technological innovation.

As it is, prices are expected to be sky high for the potential first prototypes to be sent off the assembly line, which means that wealthier people with higher vehicular budgets will be more likely to experience it first before the average American gets a shot at it. The technology alone is estimated to cost more than $250,000 per vehicle - but like with the smart phone, perhaps we do need the wealthy to test the newest and latest gadgets for bugs before we get our hands on them.

Despite the negativity surrounding the cost affordability and potential safety bugs, the general buzz and excitement surrounding the unveiling of the Google Self-Driving Car is a good sign that, once we've reached a point that the appeal of the driverless vehicles is virtually flawless, more and more Americans will gradually begin to adopt this groundbreaking technology.

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4 comments; last comment on 03/28/2015
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