John Day

News and commentary on automotive EE trends and topics

19 March, 2015

If you haven’t signed up for IESF Detroit 2015 already, visit

Mentor Graphics’ one-day conference at Ford Motor Company’s Conference & Event Center (1151 Village Road in Dearborn) promises to attract one thousand or more automotive engineers.

Registration begins at 8am and the day concludes with a reception from 4:30 to 6:00.

paul hansen

Paul Hansen

Select one or more of these Technical Focus Areas:
• Electrical Systems Architecture & Design
• IVI/ADAS/Embedded Software/GENIVI
• Electrical Systems Engineering & Service
• EV/Hybrid EE Design
• Network Design, Integration & AUTOSAR
• Model Based Design
• Electronic Thermal Design & Measurement
• PCB Systems Design

roger lanctot

Roger Lanctot

See and hear presentations from speakers including:
• John Blyler, Founder and CEO, JB Systems Media and Technology
• Dr. Sunil Chhaya, Senior Technical Leader, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
• Steve Crumb, Executive Director, GENIVI Alliance
• Paul Hansen, Editor, The Hansen Report
• Roger C. Lanctot, Director – Global Automotive Practice, Strategy Analytics
• Paul Mascarenas, President of FISITA

Explore key topics at these presentations and panel sessions:
• Automation Tools Free Engineers to Innovate
• The Rise of Smart Machines – Fact or Fiction?
• Enabling Choice for Future Automotive Software Deployments
• Convergence of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), In-Vehicle Infotainment, and Driver Information Systems
• Improving Communications Between OEMs and Suppliers
• Calculating the Cost of Complexity – Do the Math
• Ethernet Backbone – Paving the Way towards Guaranteed Timing Behavior
• Optimizing Form and Function of EV/ Hybrid Harnesses
• IVI/ADAS/Embedded Software/GENIVI
• Managing Design and Manufacturing Challenges In Automotive Electronics
• Decision Making in an EE World
• Manage Complex Design Changes Across the Flow with Advanced Change Automation
• AUTOSAR: Vehicle Network Timing Analysis
• Moving Beyond Complex Modeling Languages: A More Intuitive Approach to Automotive System Modeling
• Make System Definition, Integration and Hierachy an Integral Part of Your Flow
• When Data Exchange Becomes Business Exchange
• Using Active Noise Control to Improve Driving Experience and Safety
• Analyzing Aging and Thermal Effects on Automotive Systems
• Network Design, Integration and AUTOSAR
• Integration of EE in PLM Infrastructure
• Improve Quality and Manufacturing Flexibility with Workbooks
• Managing Multi-Screen Video and Embedded Graphics in an Automotive Environment
• Reliable Simulation for Advanced Motor Drive Systems using an FEA-based, High-Fidelity Motor Modeling Solution – JMAG-RT
• Augmenting Current Tools and Processes to Increase the Productivity of an Engineering Team

IESF provides an excellent opportunity to learn, and network. I hope to see you there.

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13 March, 2015

mitsubishi concept
Mitsubishi’s Concept GC-PHEV (“Grand Cruiser”), a full-size crossover, recently made its North American debut.

It’s loaded with innovations that rely on automotive electronics hardware and software.

Take for example a Tactical Table. Located in the center of the cabin between the four seating positions, the touch-screen Tactical Table is a new information system that makes connected car technology an interactive experience available to everyone inside the vehicle.

mitsubishi concept interior-2It provides an advanced means of two-way communication among the vehicle’s occupants, who might want to assimilate information for a road trip or just have fun with infotainment.

When the driver or a passenger places their smartphone on the Table they can create, collect, exchange and/or share information with others using the Concept GC-PHEV’s onboard communication system.

Augmented Reality

Then there’s the AR Windshield – AR for augmented reality. The windshield relays critical information in the driver’s line of sight across the windshield without the driver having to take his or her eyes off the road. Information projected onto the windshield can include:
• Satellite navigation-based drive route guidance
• Distance to vehicle ahead
• Lane Departure Warning alerts
• Vehicles/pedestrians in blind spots
• Caution Tracking information that includes vehicle-to-vehicle communications

Beyond those two innovations is a plethora of safety features: Rearward Blind Spot Vehicle (or Pedestrian or Cyclist or Obstruction) Warning; Pedestrian Collision Mitigating Auto-braking that uses both radar and camera-based systems; Unintentional Vehicle Move Off Control, which uses a camera and sensors to detect the mistaken or unintended use of the accelerator instead of the brake, and Driver Monitor, which uses sensors in the steering system and the driver’s seat, as well as a camera in front of the driver to monitor the driver’s alertness. The list goes on.

Good News for Home Appliances

As its initials imply, the Concept GC-PHEV is a plug-in hybrid vehicle, and Mitsubishi says its main drive lithium-ion battery pack can act as a mobile power source for home appliances in the event of a power outage. The 100 volt AC onboard electrical outlet can deliver an external power supply of up to 1500 watts of electrical energy.

Using the energy stored within a fully charged lithium-ion battery pack alone, the Concept GC-PHEV can supply the equivalent of a day’s worth of electrical power consumption to the average household. With a fully charged battery pack and a full tank of gas to recharge the battery when necessary, the advanced PHEV drivetrain can provide nearly two weeks (13 days) of emergency power to the average household.

A car is no longer just a car, and the future is closer than we might think.

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9 March, 2015

battelle logoThe good news, according to cyber security specialist Battelle, is that vehicle owners, for the most part, are not in imminent danger from hackers. The bad news is that the threat of vehicle hacking is real, and growing.

sae logoIn a step toward combatting the threat, Battelle and the SAE are planning a five-day training event – the 2015 SAE Battelle CyberAuto Challenge – July 12-17 at Delphi corporate headquarters in Troy, Michigan.

SAE Industry Technologies Consortia (ITC) New Business Development Manager Patti Kreh described the Challenge as a practicum-based workshop consisting of a series of classroom lessons and discussions alternating with hands-on work with real cars, real equipment, real communications protocols, and real industry experts, including automotive engineers, government engineers, and ‘white hat’ hackers. Kreh said teams will perform analysis and provide input on current model, full-feature cars.

The event will also include a 24-hour auto “hackathon.”

The Challenge, entering its fourth year, was created by Battelle and Karl Heimer, founder of the Center for Advanced Vehicle Environments (CAVE) and also founder of AutoImmune. Last year’s event, also at Delphi, drew 110 participants, including more than 30 students.

“Events like this allow Delphi and the other challenge participants to get real-world experience with cyber-security scenarios,” said Andrew Brown, Jr, vice president and chief technologist, Delphi Automotive. “Delphi is keenly aware of the cyber threats associated with today’s interconnected vehicles and hands-on events like the CyberAuto Challenge help continue to arm the company with measures that enable a safe and secure driving experience.”

Heimer said there is a clear need for a tailored curriculum to support auto cybersecurity issues; a curriculum that spans electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science. Among the objectives of the event are exposing high school and college students to careers in the automotive industry, and improving automotive engineers’ cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

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27 February, 2015

mentor flicharge Power discfliCharge International Ltd. (pronounced fly-charge), which developed the wireless smartphone charging technology used in vehicles from Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota, has introduced a USB Auto-Detect PowerDisc for charging iPads, tablets, smartphones and a wide variety of other devices.

Its patented fliCharge wire-free conductive charging technology has charging efficiencies of over 95%, according to the company.

The technology can charge multiple devices on the same charging pad simultaneously, regardless of their power requirements or position on the pad.

According to fliCharge, its technology is the only interoperable wire-free charging solution that can simultaneously charge multiple devices on the same charging pad regardless of their power requirement or position on the pad.

An Auto-Detect feature of the 2.4 AMP, 5 Volt PowerDisc monitors the USB data specification of the device and automatically provides the correct electrical signature to ensure that each device charges to its full capacity.
Customers can use the power cables that come with their devices.

The USB PowerDisc is ideal for a number of products, including all iPads, iPad Minis and Android tablets, as well as all models of iPhones, iPods, Samsung Galaxy phone models, Android phones, GPS devices, Kindles, Google Glasses and Apple iWatches, among many others.

Office and educational products using the fliCharge technology are currently being developed, and through its technology integration program, fliCharge provides its partners with the ability to integrate highly efficient, wire-free technology into their products quickly and cost effectively.

“We are particularly excited to offer a highly efficient wire-free charging solution for all iPads and Android tablets charged at home, at school, and the office, as well as in vehicles,” said fliCharge CEO Randall P. Marx. “The product enables users to easily charge and work, or charge and play, at the same time, which is something that available research says consumers want from their wire-free charging.”

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25 February, 2015

chrysler 200 CH015_252TW__midTime does indeed march on. One of the first things I noticed when I slipped behind the wheel of a 2015 Chrysler 200 Limited was the lack of a CD player. You can still find them in some new cars, but not this one.

The Chrysler, however, has USB and AUX ports, and should be able to accommodate a portable player if all that is accessible via Bluetooth and Chrysler’s UConnect multimedia system isn’t enough.

Pairing a phone with UConnect was reasonably fast and easy, as was playing music from the phone through the car’s six speakers. The car’s sound quality is ample.

Other infotainment choices immediately available were AM/FM radio, and SiriusXM (the car comes with a one-year SiriusXM subscription). Selecting and storing favorite AM/FM stations or SiriusXM channels was easy. Icons for AM, FM and SiriusXM are placed vertically on the left side of the 8.4-inch touch screen, which is included in a $695 option (a 5-inch screen is standard). Touch-selectable favorite stations/channels are displayed horizontally at the top of the screen. Volume and tuning knobs are located just below the screen.

2015 Chrysler 200CUConnect also supports Pandora, Aha, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, and Yelp. Logic suggested that having those apps on a paired phone would be sufficient to access them via UConnect, but I decided not to register for UConnect service online, so those apps were not an option.

I did select Pandora on my phone (while in Park) and could hear the station through the car’s speakers and see its title displayed on the screen.

The downside was that I had to use the phone to change the channel on the phone; not a problem while the car is parked, but not feasible while the car is moving. Presumably I could use the touch screen to change channels if the app were connected via UConnect.

Icons at the bottom of the screen let the driver or front seat passenger select Radio, (other) Media, Controls (to adjust the driver’s or passenger’s seat every which way), Climate, Phone, or Apps.

A large knob below the screen is used to adjust the speed of the fan, and red and blue arrows on either side of the knob allow the driver or passenger to adjust temperature. Buttons nearby turn the windshield and/or rear window defroster on or off. Rear seat passengers can also adjust fan speed and temperature.

The 200 offers keyless entry – no more struggling to unfreeze door locks in winter – and pushbutton start. A large silver knob allows the driver to shift from Park to Drive or Reverse. The ParkView backup camera works nicely, though I would prefer a broader peripheral view.

The MSRP on the Chrysler 200 Limited I drove is $23,485. My car included the Convenience Group ($895), the Comfort Group ($645) and UConnect 8.4A ($695). With a $995 destination charge, the total was $26,715.

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20 February, 2015


Volvo wants to integrate self-driving cars into real traffic with ordinary people, as opposed to professional drivers, behind the wheel.

This week they described in some detail what they call the Drive Me project.

Their plan is to put 100 self-driving cars in the hands of customers on selected roads around Gothenburg, Sweden by 2017, which is practically the day after tomorrow in automotive terms.

To make that work they need, and have designed, a production-viable autonomous driving system that encompasses a complex network of sensors, cloud-based positioning systems and intelligent braking and steering technologies.

“Autonomous driving will fundamentally change the way we look at driving,” said Dr. Peter Mertens, Volvo Car Group’s Senior VP of R&D. “In the future, you will be able to choose between autonomous and active driving.”
A Volvo Autopilot system is designed to be reliable enough to allow the car to take over every aspect of driving in autonomous mode. It includes fault-tolerant technology.

It’s Easy to Build a Self-Driving Concept Vehicle, But…

“It is relatively easy to build and demonstrate a self-driving concept vehicle, but if you want to create an impact in the real world, you have to design and produce a complete system that will be safe, robust and affordable for ordinary customers,” said Dr Erik Coelingh, a Volvo Technical Specialist.

The challenge is to design an Autopilot system robust enough for traffic scenarios and whatever technical faults might occur – without requiring the driver to be ready to assume control at any moment. At first, the cars will drive autonomously on selected roads with suitable conditions, so no heavy traffic, cyclists or pedestrians.

99 Percent Reliable Is Not Good Enough

“Making this complex system 99 percent reliable is not good enough. You need to get much closer to 100 per cent before you can let self-driving cars mix with other road users in real-life traffic,” Coelingh explained. “We have a similar approach to that of the aircraft industry. Our fail-operational architecture includes backup systems that will ensure that Autopilot will continue to function safely also if an element of the system were to become disabled.” He cited a second independent brake system as one example.

“When autonomous driving is no longer available – due to exceptional weather conditions, technical malfunction or the end of the route has been reached – the driver is prompted by the system to take over again,” Coelingh said, adding that if the driver is incapacitated for any reason, and does not take over in time, the car will bring itself to a safe place to stop.

There are significant potential benefits to autonomous driving, and now the technology is not all that far from reality.

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13 February, 2015

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D Mass.)

In a report issued last week Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward J. Markey says wireless technologies leave vehicles exposed to hackers, and new standards are needed to plug security and privacy gaps in cars and trucks.

Hacking is a serious concern, and the thought of some nefarious thing happening as we drive is scary, to say the least.

Senator Markey’s report, “Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk,” is based on responses from 16 automakers to questions Senator Markey posed last year regarding vehicles’ vulnerability to hackers and how driver information is collected and protected. The report is available here.

Responses were received from BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen (with Audi), and Volvo.

According to Senator Markey, the responses show a vehicle fleet that has fully adopted wireless technologies, including wireless Internet access, but has not addressed the real possibilities of hacker infiltration into vehicle systems.

“Drivers have come to rely on these new technologies, but unfortunately the automakers haven’t done their part to protect us from cyber-attacks or privacy invasions. Even as we are more connected than ever in our cars and trucks, our technology systems and data security remain largely unprotected,” Senator Markey said. “We need to work with the industry and cyber-security experts to establish clear rules of the road to ensure the safety and privacy of 21st-century American drivers.”

The report found that
–Nearly 100 percent of vehicles on the market include wireless technologies that could pose vulnerabilities to hacking or privacy intrusions.
–Most automobile manufacturers were unaware of or unable to report on past hacking incidents.
–Security measures to prevent remote access to vehicle electronics are inconsistent and haphazard across the different manufacturers.
–Only two automobile manufacturers were able to describe any capabilities to diagnose or meaningfully respond to an infiltration in real-time, and most said they rely on technologies that cannot be used for this purpose at all.

Should we worry? And what should be done? Are automakers taking adequate steps to provide security, or should government take action. The topic deserves a closer look.

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6 February, 2015

There is a lot of excitement in the automotive industry about potential applications for Ethernet. For one example, Broadcom recently introduced a new BroadR-Reach® automotive Ethernet chip optimized for use in low-power applications.

broadrreach_automotive_pressimage_jan2015Broadcom said the chip’s low power potential enables uses cases beyond infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and into telematics, shark fin antennas, instrumentation clusters, head unit and center stack module applications.

Advances in higher bandwidth are coming just in time. Scot Morrison, Mentor Graphics general manager, Embedded Runtime Solutions, says “the rapid growth of software and electronic systems in today’s vehicles has meant that existing vehicle network technologies are not able to handle the data communication load created.”

autosar logoThat’s good news for those in favor of higher bandwidth and Ethernet, but CAN, FlexRay, and other network topologies are likely to remain in place for some time, and all must be made to work smoothly together.

Morrison notes that the AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) standard supports timing definition for all elements in a mixed-topology network.

Mentor’s Volcano™ VSA™ product is used for network design of AUTOSAR- and non-AUTOSAR-based electronic control units (ECUs), and this week Mentor announced the availability of automotive Ethernet support for Volcano™ VSA™.

Morrison explains that Volcano™ VSA™ addresses timing analysis challenges – accounting for many different timing paths – where a mixture of CAN, FlexRay, and Ethernet-based network busses co-exist.

He concludes, “The high-bandwidth capabilities of an Ethernet network, along with competitive manufacturing costs, have made it a good choice for many ECU interfaces within a modern vehicle. Our Volcano VSA design tools will allow engineers to efficiently design hybrid networks utilizing Ethernet, CAN, LIN and FlexRay technologies.”
At the Automotive Ethernet Congress in Munich, Mentor demoed a real-life example based on a Freescale ECU evaluation board, Broadcom’s BroadR-Reach® technology, and COTS network analysis tools.

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30 January, 2015

snow_roadsBaron Services, Inc., the Huntsville, Alabama company that provides storm tracker service to TV stations and up-to-date information on weather and road conditions to drivers via SiriusXM, is currently marketing a Driver Safety Program to automakers and tier one suppliers.

Chris Carr, Baron’s director of business development, says the program’s objective is to make immediate, contextual information on weather and road conditions available to drivers as part of a comprehensive safety package configured by each automaker.

Baron provides the weather information to automakers via an API (application programming interface).

“In keeping with the trend toward the connected car, the idea is that all weather-related threats and road condition information relevant to a driver’s specific location will be available in a single product integrated by the automaker as a standard safety feature,” says Carr. “It’s more a service than it is an app, and as such it helps personalize the driving experience. It will be like having a meteorologist sitting next to you.”

car_gps_fog1Carr says Baron’s connected vehicle service goes well beyond traditional forecasting.

“We are now able to provide precise, personalized weather information to a driver, taking into account changing conditions relative to the driver’s travel time and their distance from a developing weather event. We take these millions of pieces of data, and we index them with real-time meteorological information to create a library of road surface conditions.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, in the U.S. there are more than 5.8 million vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year, of which an estimated that 23 percent are weather-related.

That’s approximately 1.3 million crashes – accounting for 6,250 deaths and 480,000 injuries – caused by adverse road conditions including rain, sleet, ice, snow, fog, severe crosswinds, and blowing snow, sand or debris.

Carr says Baron is currently working with automakers, suppliers, and insurance companies. “As the connected car takes off, with services increasing, we expect to see a reduction in accidents.”

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26 January, 2015

It makes perfect sense for automakers and tier one suppliers to set up facilities in Silicon Valley where there are, as you may know, a great many very well qualified technical people.

It’s one more sign – not that we needed one – of the increasing significance of electronics hardware/software/systems technology to competitive cars.

In the past year Elektrobit announced plans to open an automotive software lab, Continental said it was putting together an international team of IT and automotive innovators, and DENSO expanded its Silicon Valley office. Undoubtedly there were others.

The most recent announcement came from Ford, which is setting up a Research and Innovation Center in Stanford Research Park, Palo Alto. It said it’s growing its global research team and accelerating its innovation in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data.

Three years ago Ford announced plans to open its first dedicated research lab in Silicon Valley, one focused on personal mobility research. Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said the new research center “shows Ford’s commitment to be part of the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem – anticipating customers’ wants and needs, especially on connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles.”

Fields added that Ford wants to make new technologies “accessible to everyone, not just luxury customers.”
Ford said it expects to have one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in Silicon Valley by the end of the year, with 125 researchers, engineers and scientists.

Ford named Dragos Maciuca to head up the new research center. He joins Ford from Apple, and has experience in consumer electronics, semiconductor manufacturing, aerospace, and automotive.

In its announcement Ford outlined some projects for Silicon Valley team members. They’ll collaborate with folks at Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley to improve speech recognition and support more natural language.

Team members will also work on “remote repositioning mobility.” Someone sitting in Palo Alto will be able to access real-time video streamed over existing 4G/LTE technology to drive golf carts on Georgia Tech’s campus in Atlanta. The research could lead to a new form of valet parking.

“We view ourselves as both a mobility and an auto company,” said Fields, “as we drive innovation in every part of our business.”

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