John Day

News and commentary on automotive EE trends and topics

16 December, 2014

jlr 12-15-14This isn’t quite ready yet but it should be quite something to see when it is.

Jaguar Land Rover is conducting research the goal of which is (1) to make a car’s A, B and C pillars transparent to improve visibility and (2) to project an image of a vehicle in front of the driver’s car – a ghost car, as it were – for the driver to follow, turn-by-turn, until the desired destination is reached.

Pillar-wise, a screen would be embedded in the surface of each pillar inside the car and would take a live video feed from cameras covering the angles outside the car that otherwise are obscured in the blind spots created by the pillars.

The driver would then be able to see pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles and what have you all around the car. Then, the automaker says, by combining the transparent pillars with a particularly good Heads-Up display, the movement of other road users could be highlighted to the driver with an on-screen halo moving across the car’s “360 Virtual Urban Windscreen.”

When the driver indicates a desire to change direction, or move their head to look over their shoulder during an overtake maneuver, or when the vehicle approaches an intersection, the system would automatically make the left or right side pillars transparent.

To gain the full effect, the virtual windscreen would be connected to the Cloud. And if the car were connected to roadside infrastructure and to businesses in proximity, the windscreen could present information on, say, gas prices, or parking spaces, saving the driver the hassle of finding those locations in some other way.

When the car were connected, drivers could be prompted to turn not just at such-and-such a street (where a street sign may or may not be visible), but at more visible landmarks – like a gas station.

Or, the navigation system could project an image of a car ahead of the driver’s car – a “ghost” car – that the driver could follow to their destination. That’s something I’d like to see.

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11 December, 2014

The past week or so has been relatively momentous for automotive Ethernet.

– The OPEN Alliance (One-Pair EtherNet) Special Interest Group (SIG) announced the formation of several new technical committees,

– the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) announced expanded interoperability testing and support for 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet (40G/100G) including automotive Ethernet, and

– the AVnu Alliance, an enthusiastic supporter of automotive Ethernet, announced a new industrial market segment, which it estimates to be worth $150 billion or so per-year.

open alliance logoThe new OPEN Alliance technical committees will work to refine automotive xMII interfaces, enable Gigabit automotive Ethernet over Plastic Optical Fiber (POF), define tests for one-pair Ethernet Electronic Control Units (ECUs), and specify channel components for Gigabit copper Ethernet. More information can be found at

The Alliance says its membership has grown quite a lot in the past three years and it now includes nearly 250 automakers, tier ones and technology companies. It’s focused on establishing automotive Ethernet as the connectivity technology and network backbone of choice for the next generation of cars, at least for infotainment and safety.

Two years ago the Alliance endorsed the UNH-IOL as the first laboratory to test BroadR-Reach, a standard for 100Mbps Ethernet connectivity in automotive networking applications. Ian Riches, Strategy Analytics’ Director of Automotive Electronics, noted automated-driving assistance (ADA) and infotainment systems as the two leading growth areas for automotive Ethernet.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that by the end of the current decade there’ll be more than 100 automotive Ethernet nodes in luxury cars and 50 to 60 or so in mass market vehicles.

Jeff Lapak, UNH-IOL Senior Manager, Ethernet Technologies, said he anticipates automotive Ethernet announcements in the coming year. The advantages of automotive Ethernet include greater bandwidth and flexibility. A vendor can develop technology that can be used by many automakers. The UNH-IOL Automotive Ethernet Consortium is gaining momentum and is now open to car manufacturers and parts suppliers worldwide.

The AVnu Alliance noted the evolution of the Audio Video Bridging (AVB) standard into Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) and cited the benefits of TSN for industrial control applications. Earlier the Alliance announced support for TSN in automotive applications such as drive-by-wire and autonomous driving.

5 December, 2014

The more I learn about automotive electronics, the more excited I am about what’s coming in cars. I had the opportunity to see a bit of the future that’s available now when I tested the 2015 Subaru Outback, specifically, a 3.6R Limited with a 256-hp, 3.6 liter BOXER six-cylinder engine.

subaru 2015SubaruOutback-1__thumbThe 2015 Outback is said to have a more “up-market” interior, presumably compared to last year’s model, with extensive soft-touch materials used throughout. Subaru says the Limited model offers a higher level of luxury than any previous Outback.

It was indeed comfy, and perhaps because of quietening revisions such as an acoustic windshield and liquid-filled engine mounts it was easy to speak comfortably with a front-seat passenger (without me having to raise my voice).

As I was backing out of my driveway in the Outback for the first time I heard a warning sound and then, in the full-color rearview camera, saw a car passing behind me. Rearview cameras will be mandatory in North America, with the phase-in beginning in 2016. The sooner the better, in my opinion, and they should all include cross-traffic alert, since I’m probably not the only one who consistently parks between two much-larger vehicles, making it more difficult and a trifle dangerous to back out. Eventually I want forward collision warning, too, and that will come with birds-eye view cameras. Maybe next year?

Out on the highway, when I edged slightly over the center line I heard a signal reminding me to stay in my own lane. I should not have needed a reminder, but it was nice to know it’s there. The warning signals were loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to be frightening. I’m sure the same would be true of the car’s blind spot detection feature, but there are some things I am hesitant to test, and edging in front of a car to my rear is one of them. So is following a car in front of me closely enough for adaptive cruise control or pre-collision braking to kick in. I’m glad those features are there, and I’d use them. Just not test them. I’ll have to work on that.

What impressed me most was the navigation system telling me to turn right “just before the gas station.” There was, in fact, a gas station right where the navigation system said it was. Does every navigation system deliver that degree of detail now? Certainly all should, and presumably all will.

subaru2015SubaruOutback-51__thumbAnd navigation brings me to the car’s 7-inch color touchscreen display. I often hear that the typical car buyer today wants the same smartphone functionality inside the car that they have outside, or at least the closest approximation. I noticed that “MirrorLink” was grayed out on the screen, presumably because my phone isn’t MirrorLink enabled. If it had been, I can imagine that my familiar smartphone screen would have been replicated on the car’s display and I would be, as they say, good to go.

I was able to pair my phone with the Outback, make and receive calls, and play music stored on the phone through the car’s sound system (Harman/Kardon 576W equivalent audio system with 12 speakers). I wasn’t able to do much else, but that was due to limitations in my phone, not in the Outback. Smartphone/vehicle connectivity is real, and a big deal.

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28 November, 2014
palmer 11-28-14

ADEPT, the Advanced Diesel-Electric Powertrain project, is a 48V mild hybrid under development in the UK by technology companies including Ricardo, Ford, CPT, EALABC, Faurecia and the University of Nottingham. The vehicle was displayed at the 2nd International Conference on Advanced Automotive 48V Power Supply Systems.

According to participants at the 2nd International Conference on Advanced Automotive 48V Power Supply Systems in Düsseldorf, Germany, organized by IQPC Automotive, 48V mild hybrid developments are being driven by ever-tightening European CO2 regulations and a new, more aggressive test cycle.

There appeared to be a consensus on the need for an internationally accepted 48V electrical standard to achieve the economies of scale that automakers demand.

Volkswagen, Volvo, PSA Peugeot Citroën, AVL, Ricardo, and Controlled Power Technologies (CPT) were among the firms represented at the conference.

Florian Kühnlenz, responsible for series development of low voltage energy systems at Volkswagen AG, presented the electric and electronic architecture requirements of dual voltage power supplies in vehicles at 12 volts and 48 volts. Initial steps have already been taken for the adoption of the proposed LV148 standard suggested by Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen.

Kühnlenz believes the introduction of a second voltage at 48 volts addresses new challenges for automotive electrical and electronic systems, but that most issues have now been identified and preliminary solutions already developed for introduction during the ramp up to the 95g/km CO2 requirement by 2020.

The displacement of high wattage loads to a more efficient 48 volt network is expected to be the next step in the development of a new generation of low voltage mild hybrid vehicles.

“Other global carmakers will have to decide whether they want to embrace 48 volts,” says Paul Bloore product validation manager for CPT’s hybrid product group. According to Bloore, 48V hybrids are currently the most cost-effective way of meeting stringent CO2 emissions being introduced in 2020.

What’s more, there is a forthcoming a shift from the current NEDC (New European Drive Cycle) test to the more aggressive WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedures) test, with additional 25 percent reductions in CO2 emissions anticipated in 2025 and 2030.

The EU goal is to introduce the WLTP by 2017 if possible and no later than 2020 to coincide with the requirement of less than 95g/km of CO2 by then, but Bloore notes that the WLTP cycle will be much more challenging than the NEDC. For example, the WLTP typically reduces by half the CO2 reduction gained from first-generation stop-start systems. Those systems reduce CO2 emissions by 5 percent on the NEDC but only by 2.5 percent on the WLTP.

“Car makers will have to further optimize their control system strategy,” Bloore concludes. Fortunately for them, CPT offers a belt-integrated starter generator (B-ISG) that helps to reduce sensitivity to different real world driving styles and test cycles.

“Electric boosting using energy recuperated, rather than lost in friction from the brakes, not only reduces CO2 and NOX emissions, but can also have a positive impact on vehicle performance and driveability.”

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25 November, 2014
IDTechEx chairman Dr Peter Harrop

IDTechEx Chairman Dr. Peter Harrop

A new report from IDTechEx  predicts that over $125 billion will be spent on range extenders for electric vehicles by 2025.

That’s for all kinds of electric vehicles. Pure electric vehicles – such as forklifts, golf carts, and mobility vehicles for the disabled – tend to be small and rarely need to travel long distances, but roughly half of the electric vehicle market value is in larger road vehicles, especially cars, and as IDTechEx sees it, range anxiety compels most people to buy hybrids if they go electric at all.

The research firm says that more than eight million hybrid cars will be made in 2025, and each will have a range extender, the additional power source that distinguishes them from pure electric cars.

“The next ten years will see many new technologies succeeding in this huge new market,” says Dr. Peter Harrop, IDTechEx chairman. “By far the biggest demand will be for land vehicles, notably cars, with outdoor forklifts and buses also significant in number. However, the money spent and the profits made will involve many other sectors such as military and construction vehicles.”

Harrop anticipates the introduction next year of hybrid electric vehicles with fuel cell range extenders from five automakers. “It is certainly not all about fuel cells taking over from piston engines,” he says. “There will be plenty of hybrid vehicles made in 2025 with simplified, tiny piston engines. Free-piston engines, stuck in the laboratory for decades do look interesting, generating electricity directly.

“Rotary combustion engines will probably have a place but not be dominant,” Harrop continues. “We see multi-fuel jet engines taking a minority share as efficiency and cost improve and some will be so small you will hold them in one hand. There will be many more range extenders sold as an optional extra, some being simply to get you home in an emergency and others for regular use.”

He concludes that there’ll be no clear leader in range extender technology by 2025, “but power output mainly in the 10-40kW range and a clear leader emerging after 2025.”

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20 November, 2014

Infiniti is turning 25, and it took the opportunity to look back on all it has accomplished in that time. What caught my eye was how many of those accomplishments – industry firsts – had to do with electrical/electronic systems:

Rear and Around View
Infiniti’s RearView Monitor, or backup camera, debuted on the 2002 Q45. The automaker first offered a 360-degree Around View® Monitor on the 2008 Infiniti EX35 and then enhanced the feature with Moving Object Detection.

Lane Departure Warning and Prevention; Blind Spot Intervention
Infiniti offered Lane Departure Warning on the 2005 Infiniti FX and Lane Departure Prevention on the 2008 Infiniti M. Prevention helps the driver bring the vehicle back into the proper lane. Blind Spot Intervention® (BSI) was introduced on the 2011 M.

Backup Collision Intervention™
Backup Collision Intervention™, introduced on the 2013 Infiniti JX, detects cross traffic and large stationary objects behind the vehicle and can warn the driver and momentarily engage the brakes if necessary to help avoid a collision.

Predictive Forward Collision Warning
Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) was introduced on the 2014 Infiniti Q50. It can sense the relative speed and distance of a car ahead and also of a car ahead of that, so it alerts the driver to traffic stopped up ahead.

Direct Adaptive Steering
Infiniti said that in 2013 it became the first automaker to introduce a “steer-by-wire” system in a production car. The 2014 Q50 offers Direct Adaptive Steering™, which transmits steering inputs electronically instead of mechanically for a faster and more precise response.

Steering a Safer Path

Active Lane Control
Besides Predictive Forward Collision Warning and Direct Adaptive Steering, the 2014 Q50 also offers Active Lane Control system, which senses unintended lane drift and can automatically make changes to tire angles and steering wheel torque.

Q80 Inspiration Concept
Infiniti says that many of these systems are now available on every Infiniti model (see for a list).

The Q80 Inspiration Concept unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, leverages that active and passive safety technology experience. It includes a suite of cameras, lasers, sensors and artificial intelligence designed to provide an ongoing dialogue between the vehicle and driver via a Head-Up Display (HUD) projected on the windshield.

The concept car features a twin-turbo 3.0-liter hybrid electric V6 powering all four wheels. It’s able to produce as much as 560-hp and provide nearly 45 mpg.

Well worth watching.

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18 November, 2014

Prospective car buyers in California will have an opportunity next fall to own or lease a Toyota Mirai, the hydrogen-powered four-door, midsized sedan the company announced this week.

The Mirai (a Japanese word that means “the future”) uses no gasoline and emits nothing but water vapor. It refuels in about five minutes and can go up to 300 miles on a tankful. It will be available outside California depending upon the availability of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

That was my first question – how easy or difficult will a fuel cell vehicle (FCV) be to refuel.

According to Toyota, research at the University of California Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) concluded that 68 stations properly situated could handle at least 10,000 FCVs.

By the end of 2015, 3 of California’s 9 active hydrogen stations plus 17 newly-constructed stations are scheduled to be opened to the general public, with 28 additional stations expected by the end of 2016, for a total of 48 stations.
Nineteen of the 48 stations will be built by FirstElement Fuels, supported by a $7.3 million loan from Toyota. In 2016, Air Liquide, in collaboration with Toyota, is targeting construction of 12 stations in five states – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Next I wondered how much the Mirai will cost. It will list for $57,500 with potential state and federal incentives potentially trimming the tag to less than $45,000, or it will lease for $499 a month (36-month term with $3,649 due at signing).

Toyota plans to wrap the Mirai in a 360-degree Ownership Experience package that includes a 24/7 concierge service, with calls answered by a dedicated fuel cell representative; 24/7 enhanced roadside assistance, including towing, battery, flat tire assistance, trip interruption reimbursement, and loaner vehicle; three years of Toyota Care maintenance, and an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on fuel cell components. Plus Entune and three years of complimentary Safety Connect, including a hydrogen station map app. And complimentary hydrogen fuel for up to three years.

There’s much more, as you might imagine: the Mirai’s fuel cell stack, which fits under the front driver and passenger seats, delivers a power output of 3.1 kW/L and a maximum output of 153hp, accelerating from 0-60 in 9.0 seconds and delivering a passing time of 3 seconds from 25-40 mph.

Standard safety technologies include vehicle pre-collision, blind spot monitor, lane departure alert, drive start control and automatic high beams.

The evolution of fuel cell vehicles appears to be a trend worth watching.

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14 November, 2014

There is a bit of a disconnect between automotive technology and our – or at least my – desire for immediate gratification. For example, the car I drive, as nice as it is, doesn’t have a rearview camera with or without cross-traffic alert.

Recently I had the opportunity to drive a 2015 Subaru Outback, which does have such a camera (more about that in a future post). It’s true that walking down to the end of the driveway and looking up and down the sidewalk for pedestrians or bicyclists is not all that big an imposition; nevertheless, it’s nice to be able to see what’s behind me before I back out.

(I would really like Cross Traffic Alert in my next car because, it seems, no matter where I park I’ll end up between two significantly larger vehicles.)

Safe driving crossed my mind when I saw Bosch’s announcement that its mid-range radar (MRR) sensor is in production for one of a European car manufacturer’s high-volume mid-sized vehicles. The MRR sensor for rear-end applications feeds information to a lane-changing assistant.

“The MMR rear means drivers are effectively looking over their shoulders all the time, because it reliably and accurately recognizes other road users in their vehicle’s blind spot,” says Gerhard Steiger, president of the Bosch Chassis Systems Control division.

The European car manufacturer is placing two sensors in the mid-sized vehicle’s rear bumper in order to make lane-changing safer. The two sensors, described as exceptionally compact, monitor the area alongside and behind the car. Software collates the sensor information, so there’ll be a warning, or a series of warnings, to a driver who wants to change lanes when he/she shouldn’t.

What’s more, Bosch’s MRR rear system contributes to the company’s cross-traffic alert system, which can do much more than just assist with lane-changing, however. These sensors also form part of Bosch’s cross-traffic alert system, which “supports drivers reversing out of perpendicular parking spaces when their rear view is obstructed.”

I’ve seen the future, and I want it, but patience, they say, is a virtue. What else might my next car have?

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30 October, 2014

Bosch noted this week with some justifiable pride that the electronic stability program (ESP) it pioneered becomes a standard in the European Union as of November 1.

From there on in the EU, all newly registered passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 3.5 metric tons must be equipped with the anti-skid system. The regulation will take effect for all other vehicles a year later.

Since September 2011, ESP has been mandated for all vehicles in the United States and Canada with a gross vehicle weight up to 4.5 metric tons. Australia and Israel have also made ESP mandatory. Similar regulations are eventually expected to take effect in Japan, Korea, Russia, and Turkey.

According to Bosch, ESP has prevented 190,000 accidents and saved more than 6,000 lives across Europe since its launch in 1995. In the years since then, Bosch has manufactured approximately 100 million ESP systems.

“ESP saves lives,” says Gerhard Steiger, president of the Bosch Chassis Systems Control division. The company estimates that in 2011, ESP prevented more than 33,000 accidents involving injury and saved more than 1,000 lives in the EU member states (of which there were 25 at the time), even though ESP was only installed in an estimated 40 percent of vehicles. While 84 percent of all new vehicles in Europe were equipped with the anti-skid system in 2014, the figure for all new vehicles worldwide was only 59 percent.

Preventing up to 80 Percent of Skidding Accidents
Bosch suggests that ESP is the second most important vehicle safety system – behind the seat belt but ahead of the airbag. “ESP is an unparalleled success story that we hope to replicate outside Europe as well,” says Gerhard Steiger. According to independent studies, up to 80 percent of skidding accidents on the road could be prevented if all vehicles were equipped with the anti-skid system.

How ESP Works
Using smart sensors, ESP compares at the rate of 25 times per second whether the car is actually moving in the driver’s desired direction. If the measured values do not match, the anti-skid system intervenes and reduces engine torque. If that is not sufficient, it additionally brakes individual wheels, generating the counterforce needed to keep a vehicle on course.

Next Step Beyond ABS
ESP is the logical next step in the further development of the antilock braking system (ABS) that Bosch created in 1978. Today, Bosch says, ESP is much more than an anti-skid system. A number of value-added functions now account for most of its performance, including the ability to prevent a vehicle from rolling backwards during hill starts. It can also stabilize swerving trailers and reduce the rollover risk of sports utility and light commercial vehicles.

Obviously quite an invention.

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24 October, 2014

Ford said this week that it’s rolling out a driver-assist system that, at least in some cases, may be able to keep cars from running into pedestrians, or if they do, lessen the likelihood of death or serious injury.

That’s huge, in my opinion, but there’s more. The system, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, can also help drivers avoid all-too-common rear-end collisions.

Ford will launch the system as available technology on its 2015 Mondeo in Europe. From there the plan is to offer it on other Ford and Lincoln cars around the world.

The system has limitations including nighttime, low and harsh lighting conditions, vehicles moving in a different direction, and certain weather conditions – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. In daylight and clear weather, Pedestrian Detection is designed to spot people in or near the road ahead, or crossing the vehicle’s path.

Full Braking Force

Ford’s system uses radar and camera technology to scan the roadway ahead, and if a collision risk with a vehicle or pedestrian is detected the system provides both an audible and a visual warning to the driver. If the driver does not respond in time, the system can automatically apply up to full braking force – reducing the gap between brake pads and discs – to help reduce the severity of or eliminate some collisions.

Pedestrian Detection works at lower speeds but Pre-Collision Assist works at all speeds.

The system processes information collected from a windshield-mounted camera and radar located near the bumper. It then checks the information against a database of pedestrian shapes to help distinguish people from typical roadside scenery and objects.

Ford engineers tested the system on closed test tracks using rigs fitted with manikins to replicate pedestrians. They then spent months refining the technology on roads around the world to test system reliability.

“This real-world testing was an important part of the development, because pedestrians in an urban setting can present a wide range of potential situations,” said Scott Lindstrom, Ford manager, Driver Assist Technologies. “We covered more than 300,000 miles on three continents that included a wide range of settings and situations.”

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