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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.

Welding Technique Could Benefit Auto Assembly

Posted October 22, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

A new welding method, dubbed vaporizing foil actuator welding (VFAW), claims to create bonds 50% stronger than those produced by common welding techniques — while consuming one-fifth the energy. In addition, VFAW can join widely disparate combinations of metals. This enables manufacturers to make auto bodies from high strength-to-weight-ratio materials such as aluminum and magnesium instead of steel.
For more on this subject, subscribe to the Engineering360 e-Newsletter, Fastening, Joining & Assembly.

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4 comments; last comment on 10/23/2016
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A Motorcycle So Safe You Don't Need a Helmet

Posted October 19, 2016 2:20 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: accident autonomous bmw Motorcycle

Story time! Long before I stumbled down the amiable career path that is technical writing, I was a writer and editor for the obituary section of a large newspaper. It was…interesting.

It was depressing being in the business of death. It was comforting knowing that I was helping families grieve. It was rewarding when families would smile while offering memories of their loved one. Dreadful when I once made a typo that described a decedent as "deaf" instead of "dear."

One of the most pragmatic things this stepping stone provided was a fear of motorcycles. At the time, I had several friends with bikes, and I hoped to save my meager wages enough to join the fun. Yet, without fail, every other day during the summer, I’d see or hear of another motorcyclist’s life claimed in an auto accident. Much later, I found an entirely different vehicle as a hobby.

Last week, automaker BMW debuted the Motorrad Vision Next 100, a concept motorcycle that BMW claims is so safe, riders won’t even need to wear a helmet. That is because the Vision Next 100 features self-righting technology that keeps it upright even at a standstill. The self-balancing feat is accomplished by an internal AI system that is still in development, but is built upon the recently unveiled Intelligent Emergency Call system BMW debuted less than six months ago, which senses when a biker crashes and sends a distress signal to local emergency services.

Instead of a helmet, Vision Next 100 riders would wear special glasses with an integrated HUD. These smartglasses will provide vital vehicle data to the operator, but will also be outfitted with sensors that electronically link the rider to the motorcycle. In concert with the onboard AI and sensors, the motorcycle anticipates rider movements and corrects delays or mistakes while riding. The AI even controls things like a moving engine block that widens or thins depending on the ride. BMW believes this will safely integrate new riders into the bike culture, while also providing enough thrills for seasoned enthusiasts. (But don’t bikers want just a little bit of risk?)

The vision, according the BMW engineers, was to create a motorcycle that can seamlessly blend with the autonomous vehicle traffic of the 2020s and beyond. While this means things like assisted braking and other safety features, this motorcycle will not be autonomous. BMW is well aware of how human drivers will likely bully autonomous vehicles in mixed traffic. (If you want autonomous motorcycles, go to see the extra weird Cyclotron.)

Even though the Vision Next 100 may very well be the safest motorcycle of all time, there is no reason to think it will be fatality free. Even the most advanced sensors and balancing technologies won’t be able to cope with the extremely diverse challenges of navigating roadways on a motorcycle. If I were to ever ride the Vision Next 100, I would definitely want a helmet and a durable jacket, not the Cyclops goggles and ergonomic windbreaker BMW recommends.

It seems like we’ve finally found the boundary with autonomous vehicles, the one that straddles the arguments of, “Yeah, autonomous cars are really safe” and “Maybe we’re getting complacent.” Either way, BMW has a decade or more to figure it out.

41 comments; last comment on 10/25/2016
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Processor Assists Autonomous Driving

Posted September 29, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

A leading graphics processor maker has revealed a new mobile processor with key features for autonomous driving. Dubbed Parker, the system-on-chip (SoC) processor taps the company's new generation GPU and CPU architectures to deliver up to 1.5 teraflops of performance for deep learning-based self-driving. By comparison to other mobile processors, Parker claims a 50% improvement in CPU performance while consuming low power. It has been incorporated in the company's Drive PX2 platform, which is being used by more than 80 carmakers and university researchers developing autonomous vehicles.

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Still Searching for Breakthrough Battery Technology

Posted September 19, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Industry news sources continue to report proposed alternatives to the lithium-ion batteries that power everything from laptops to electric cars. The latest candidate, lithium-sulfur batteries (Li-S), can store 4x the energy per unit mass of the Li-ion variety and can work at high temperatures without catching fire. Nevertheless, Li-S batteries can suffer sulfur depletion after a relatively short life, and polysulfides can contaminate the electrolyte. IEEE Spectrum explains how researchers have alleviated such shortcomings using a coating technique to produce a stable battery up to 55° C.

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5 comments; last comment on 09/20/2016
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Transport Sector's Carbon Footprint Grows

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

While U.S. industry has made solid strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the past 25 years, the transportation sector has increased its carbon footprint, say University of Michigan researchers. Industry, still the nation's largest emitter, accounts for about 29% of all emissions. That's down from nearly 36% in 1990. However, transportation — the country's second- largest contributor to greenhouse emissions—increased its share from 24% in 1990 to 27% in 2014. The relative contributions of the commercial, residential and agricultural sectors have also increased since 1990.

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3 comments; last comment on 08/29/2016
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