The future is electronic

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 02 Jul 2012 Views icon2455 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
The future is electronic
SINCE ITS INVENTION over a century ago, cars have become not only one of the most desired products globally but also among the most complex to be manufactured through mass production. The car has evolved greatly over time, with the complexity of engineering and design activities growing with each new product. While automobile technology has come a long way from the time Karl Benz built the first automobile in 1885, the major developments today are in the electronics sphere.

After being hit by the 2008 global slowdown, the automotive industry is now gaining momentum and seems poised for a growth spurt. In India, it is estimated that by 2015, car production will reach around five million per year. Currently, the industry faces multiple headwinds:

• Fuel prices have skyrocketed and will likely rise further

• Shrinking crude oil reserves globally

• Poor roads, especially in emerging markets

• Buyers want sophisticated and safe vehicles with low running costs

• OEMs under pressure to reduce costs, leading to shrinking margins

Automotive electronics is expected to play a major role in mitigating the above challenges. An estimated 35 percent of a car’s cost and 80 percent of automotive innovation are contributed by electronics. Going forward, OEMs will focus on gaining control over automotive electronics and embedded software to gain an edge over competition.

From an India perspective, local electronic manufacturing is limited to supply of low-cost components such as flashers, regulators, starter motors and instrument clusters. High-value components like engine management system (EMS), anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic stability program (ESP), electric power assist steering (EPAS) and secondary restraint system (SRS) are still being imported. These high-value components contribute more than 60 percent of the total car electronics. To keep a tight rein on the overall vehicle cost, OEMs are asking suppliers to have a local manufacturing facility, with a target to achieve 80 to 90 percent in value of electronics manufactured locally. In the coming years, India is expected to be a major global supplier for high-value components of automotive electronics. Bosch, which already had a design set-up here, recently started local manufacturing of high-value components to support local OEMs. Other global suppliers are expected to soon follow suit. Electronic component suppliers need to invest in building local manufacturing set-ups with equal support provided by regulatory authorities and government policies.

One of the areas for OEMs to focus on would be to standardise ECU interface to facilitate interoperability, improve diagnostic capability and bring in software safety. Other areas would be in systems like:

Powertrain: The challenge would be to improve fuel efficiency of the internal combustion engine to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

R&D: To identify alternate storage of power on-board vehicles. These could be re-chargeable batteries, compressed air or bio-fuel, will involve different drivetrain system such as refined IC engines and control, Hybrid Vehicles, plug-in hybrids and EVs.

Driver assist: Innovation in this area will be driven by customer demand and new regulations. Features like EPAS or Electronic Power Assisted Steering, camera view from rear and sides, collision detection and mitigation using radar technology, parking and lane assist, sophisticated vehicle interface (Touch, Voice & Gesture), driver intentions to turn or brake would be understood by ABS/ ESP and ECUs will run complex algorithms keeping in mind vehicle dynamics and give out control signals to ensure that the desired action is achieved.

Driver infotainment: Telematics area will see convergence of wireless communication and navigation systems with vehicle electronics enabling several high-end features.

Passenger safety and comfort: With better roads, travelling at high speeds and long-distance travel would follow. Hence, passenger safety will be dictated by regulation and features like airbags and seatbelt pretensioners becoming a standard feature across vehicle variants.

Tata Technologies already provides electronics solutions and services to major automotive and industrial machinery OEMs. Our Vehicle Program Development with its onsite and offshore engineering and design (E&D) delivery teams’ expertise in handling full vehicle development provides complete electronics solutions and services. We have decided to increase our embedded electronics capacity aggressively in the next few years. Work has already begun on finalising the location of a new strategic delivery centre in India, where the focus will be to provide world-class embedded solutions and services to our customers in the area of future automotive, aerospace and industrial machinery electronics.
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