23 January 2017
"Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel," sang The Doors in their 1970 song "Roadhouse Blues." It was good advice then and it’s still valid today — but for how much longer? Will we soon be able to take our eyes off the road, our hands off the wheel, sit back and relax, surf, text, or tweet while the car does the driving?
The arguments for taking drivers out of the control loop of moving vehicles are well known. And the self-driving car is practically an accepted part of the future. Fewer traffic accidents and enormous reductions in greenhouse gas emissions via more efficient "road trains," where a convoy of autonomous and semi-autonomous cars follows a lead vehicle, are just two of the expected benefits.
In fact, car manufacturers have been transitioning towards autonomous cars for years; many new high-end cars are semi-autonomous, assisting their human drivers with features such as Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping Assistance, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Self-Parking.
However, it is not just technology that is needed to further the use of self-driving cars; legal frameworks are needed too. Insurance is just one example.
Motor insurance policies around the world are based on the assumption that there is a human driver in control of the car. The introduction of self-driving cars will create a transfer of insurance risk from the car driver to the car manufacturer. For example, if a self-driving car is involved in a collision with a car controlled by a human driver, how will liability be assessed? As the vast majority of traffic accidents are the result of human error, will there be an assumption that the human driver was at fault? Will the manufacturer of the self-driving car have to provide a telematics record — like an aircraft’s black box recorder — that proves that it was operating at all times in accordance with its specifications? Insurance companies and car manufacturers around the world are considering this thorny problem.
Our ability to make cars smarter via semiconductor technology is way ahead of the legal and civil infrastructures that would make fully autonomous cars possible in the immediate future. However, although the semiconductor industry cannot create these frameworks and infrastructures, it will play a major role in shaping their development.
For example, communication between vehicles (V2V) and the infrastructure (V2I), collectively known as V2X, is a key part of all future smart-driving scenarios and its evolution (e.g. special extensions of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN standard) will necessarily reflect what is known to be technically and economically possible. To this end, ST is working with V2X experts Autotalks to deliver a mass market-optimized V2X chipset for widespread deployment by 2017.
The role of leading automotive semiconductor innovators like ST is to talk to everyone and work with other innovative companies to make the dream of self-driving cars come true. So, even though our hands are not directly upon the wheel, our eyes are firmly fixed on the road ahead.
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Helping You Keep Your Eyes on the Road


18 November 2016
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Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) is organising its Fortuner Experiential Drive Camp, a first for the company, in the cities of Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai over ten days. This camp is focussed on showcasing the newly-launched Toyota Fortuner’s off-roading capabilities, which it carries out with the assistance of a number of technology features. The Fortuner has been known for its commanding presence and comfortable drive on tarmac, but the company has now offered the vehicle with a range of equipment and technologies to tackle the open. Let’s look at how the new Fortuner performed on a purpose-built track to showcase its off-roading skills.
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While the new Fortuner was launched with both petrol and diesel engine options, the diesel variant was the one on offer at the event. This version is powered by the 2.8 l, four-cylinder, Global Diesel (GD) engine with variable nozzle turbocharger and intercooler, and is available with both manual and automatic transmissions. The engine puts out maximum power of 174 hp at 3,400 rpm, with 420 Nm and 450 Nm of peak torque from 1,600-2,400 rpm, for the manual and automatic versions, respectively.
The SUV features a new six-speed gearbox with iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) for the manual, and a six speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Both the manual and automatic versions of the Fortuner are offered with two-wheel drive (2WD) as well as four-wheel drive (2WD) options. A major difference inside the cabin of the second-generation Fortuner is the change from a secondary gear level to a centrally-located dial-type knob to active 4WD, placed below the air-conditioning controls.
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The new Fortuner is equipped with a range of new technology features for safety, assistance, comfort and convenience. We will focus on those features that were of most use in helping the vehicle tackle the off-road course that was presented. These include Sigma-4 concept high and low range 4WD with Electronic Drive Control, Active Traction Control (A-TRC), Hill Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).
The track for this off-road event had a combination of surfaces that could be faced either on rare occasions of off-roading, or even those presented on regular driving conditions. It consisted of zones for acceleration and braking, deep ditch, large mound, chicken holes, rumbler, water wading area, articulation/axle twister, side incline, slush and gravel trap. This track made the new Fortuner use all its safety and assistance systems to help the vehicle take on every obstacle created.
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The acceleration and braking zones showed the vehicles ABS kicking in to offer complete control while slamming the brakes, which have disc setup on all four wheels. The deep ditch tested the vehicles departure and approach angles, which were pretty well-cleared by the Fortuner, despite the visual effect of it having large overhangs front and rear. We did not scrape any part of the bumpers or their cladding throughput the entire course. Even in the case that something comes under the vehicle, its underbody protector would take care of mild impacts.
The big mound came in the form of a 40° incline, which was mainly designed to showcase the HAC and DAC features of the vehicle. The HAC holds the vehicle from rolling back when stopped in an incline. It holds for six seconds from the time the brake pedal is released, giving enough time for the driver to accelerate forward smoothly. While this feature worked in gear, as well as in neutral in the manual transmission, it kicked in only in the drive mode in the automatic version.
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DAC on the other hand is focused on helping a driver come downhill in a controlled manner, with sensors limiting the speed of vehicle when turned on to 5 km/h. This system uses a combination of engine braking and brake fluid pressure to ensure that no wheel locking takes place while descending. However, while this feature worked seamlessly in the manual version, its operation in the automatic transmission comes in after a slight jerk with the speed being between 5-10 km/h. Apart from these minor variations of DAC in the two transmissions, the system works well in ensuring the speed is limited in a decline, even when the accelerator pedal is forcefully depressed.
The next obstacle on the track was the water wading section, wherein the water is flied up to a height of 700 mm. This level increases slightly as the vehicle enters the area, but that makes no difference to the Fortuner, given its high ground clearance and adequate sealing of the doors. Additionally, the 20-year corrosion resistance that TKM offers on the chassis gives a sense of relief when taking the vehicle into watery paths.
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Obstacles like the chicken holes and rumblers give a sense of the tweaked suspension setup of the new Fortuner. While the suspension has been set up a little firmer than the outgoing model – mainly for to achieve stability, it adequately soaks up bumps without much body roll due to its advanced damping technology. The occupants don’t end up moving around sideways in these kinds of situations. The SUV’s independent suspension setup, with double wishbone in front and four-link coil springs in the rear provide a smooth yet stable ride while off-roading.
The obstacles of articulation and side incline also continued to demonstrate the features of the strengthened chassis, as well as traction control (A-TRC). The newly-developed frame structure features increased side rails and cross members for higher torsional and bending rigidity. While TKM did not have an exact figure to the level of increase in strength of the chassis, it did say that the stabiliser bars are 30 % larger than the outgoing model. Meanwhile A-TRC offers a high level of traction while off-roading by achieving Limited Slip Differential (LSD) performance. This mechanism detects a wheel slip when low on traction and applies braking on the slipping wheel, while feeding the opposite wheel with more torque. This feature worked without a fuss on these obstacles, as well as in the slush pit, in addition to the low range 4WD.
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The new Fortuner continues to be based on Toyota’s Innovative Multi-Purpose Vehicle (IMV) platform, which was designed specifically to develop vehicles for emerging markets in Asia and South America. But that is all that it shares with the previous-generation Fortuner. This new model, with all the electronic assistance and technologies is in a new league, at least when it comes down to off-road capability. The new Fortuner, with its OEM-fitted radial tyres likes to take on obstacles and seems to rise above them in a relatively calm manner. This may just be one of Toyota’s best off-roading vehicles for India, which still offers a good level of luxury and comfort that the Fortuner has been known for.
Text & Photo: Naveen Arul
04 October 2016
Author: VISHESH MEHRA is Deputy Manager at Altigreen Propulsion Labs in Bangalore.
In the case of cars, the term ‘hybrid’ refers to vehicles using two different sources of power, or using hybrid fuel. The first case includes vehicles that use an internal combustion engine alongside an electric motor, while the second case includes flexi-fuel vehicles that either use a mix of two fuels (for example, petrol and ethanol), or bi-fuel vehicles that use two separate fuel systems (for example, petrol and LPG/CNG). 
Here, we look at some common myths surrounding hybrid vehicles that use a combination of an IC engine with an electric motor, and give you the lowdown on fiction vis-à-vis fact.
Myth: Hybrids are the same as electric vehicles and need to be charged every day
Many consider hybrid vehicles to be the same as battery operated electric vehicles, which is not correct. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric propulsion system (hybrid vehicle drivetrain). The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy as compared to a conventional vehicle, or enhanced power and performance. An electric car, on the other hand, does not have any IC engine and relies only on its battery pack (which requires external charging) to provide power to its electric motors.
Hybrids often use a combination of advanced technologies like regenerative braking, which captures and utilises energy that would normally be lost while braking, and electric motor drive/assist, which provides extra power that assists the IC engine while accelerating, overtaking or climbing an incline. This allows hybrids to use smaller IC engines, since overall efficiency is increased due to the use of an electric motor. Automatic stop/start is also used to reduce fuel wastage when the vehicle is idling. Hybrid cars also do not necessarily require external charging every day, since their IC engine is capable of charging the batteries on the move, (1).
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Myth: Hybrids are untested technology and may be prone to ‘blow-ups’
Many believe that hybrid cars have not been tested sufficiently well and are not very reliable. This, again, is incorrect. Hybrids have been around since the late 1990s and have benefitted from nearly two decades of development work. In fact, there are currently close to 10 mn hybrid vehicles on the roads worldwide and are used daily by their owners, (2). Also, even though these vehicles are fitted with big batteries and powerful electric motors, hybrids are not prone to ‘blowing up,’ and can safely be used in all weather conditions, including usage in wet weather conditions. Modern hybrids also have advanced on-board diagnostics, which alert the driver immediately if any impending problems with the drivetrain are detected.
Myth: Hybrids are dull and boring, and are a losing proposition 
Style is a matter of personal preference, but there’s a long list of hybrid cars, which we think most people would find stylish. The list includes, to mention just a few, cars like the BMW 330e, Audi A3 E-Tron, BMW i8, Hyundai Sonata PHEV, Mercedes-Benz C350, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Volvo XC90 T8, Porsche 918 Spyder and even the mighty McLaren P1. All of these cars are very good looking and provide massive amounts of performance – certainly not what most people would call ‘dull’ by any stretch of the imagination.
Also, while relatively more expensive to buy, hybrids pay for themselves over long-term use. According to the results of a study undertaken by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, hybrid vehicles are up to 40 % more fuel efficient than their conventional counterparts. These numbers increase to 48 % for Indian road conditions, given our different driving patterns and traffic density, etc.
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Myth: Hybrid cars’ batteries need to be replaced time and again
Another thing about hybrids that worries potential customers is the prospect of expensive battery replacements at regular intervals. Most such worries are misplaced. Hybrid cars have sophisticated battery management systems and with years of R&D, manufacturers are now producing long-lasting batteries that can be used for up to 150,000 km of use. 
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16 September 2016
Mercedes Van Electric
Mercedes-Benz plans to invest € 500 mn over the next five years, towards integrating digitalisation, automation and robotics in its vans, and has unveiled its new, all-electric ‘Vision Van’ study that has a range of up to 270 km and fully automated cargo space.
The Mercedes Vision Van study has been developed under the German manufacturer’s ‘adVANce’ initiative, with which Mercedes-Benz aims to develop commercial vehicles that take into account changing economic and social trends, the growth in e-commerce, intelligent networking and the Internet of Things (IoT). The aim is to integrate digitalisation, automation and robotics into the commercial vans of the future, which can make the transportation of goods and passengers more efficient and open up new business opportunities for the owners of these vehicles.
Speaking at the Van Innovation Campus in Stuttgart last week, Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, explained that it’s important for the company to systematically plan for the future, to make sure its vehicles keep up with a fast changing business environment. ‘We are focusing our attention beyond the vehicle on the entire value chain and business environment of our customers. We provide transport solutions for the digital age and evolve the van into an intelligent, interconnected data centre on wheels,’ he says.
The all-electric ‘Vision Van’ study has been designed for providing innovative last-mile delivery solutions, with full digital connectivity between all people and processes involved, from the distribution centre to the eventual consignee. The van also features a fully automated cargo space and integrated delivery drones, which reduces delivery time and facilitates the ‘same day delivery’ business model that many modern e-commerce companies are now adopting.
The zero-emissions Vision Van is powered by a 75 kW electric motor and has a range of up to 270 km. Its fully automated cargo space eliminates the need for human intervention for rearranging packages while making multiple deliveries, makes loading and unloading much faster and increases process efficiency. The system is capable of ‘one-shot loading’ (loading the vehicle with all pre-picked parcels in one go), thereby reducing downtime and eliminating the chances of human error. 
Of course, the Vision Van is still a few years away from becoming production reality, but Mercedes-Benz is already investing in various start-ups in the areas of automation, robotics and mobility services as a first step towards making this dream a reality. The company, which sold 176,200 vans in the first half of the year, is making sure its stays relevant in the years and decades to come.
16 September 2016
Internal combustion engines waste an estimated 20 % of the total fuel which they consume, by using it for cooling down the engine instead of propulsion. This wastage is especially pronounced at higher speeds, where engine cooling becomes more critical. Now, Bosch may have found a way to deal with this wastage, via its newly developed water injection system for automobiles. 
Dr Rolf Bulander, Chairman of the Bosch Mobility Solutions business sector and member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, explains that Bosch’s water injection system has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 13 % and is especially effective during hard acceleration and high-speed driving on expressways. He also says that the technology is very useful for smaller, three- and four-cylinder engines that are typically used in many hatchbacks and small to mid-size family saloons. 
In addition to boosting fuel economy, Bosch’s water injection system can also boost an engine’s power delivery, especially with turbocharged engines. Stefan Seiberth, President of the Gasoline Systems division at Bosch, explains that the basic premise behind the water injection system is simple – prevent overheating, thereby increasing the engine’s operating efficiency. In conventional engines, additional fuel is injected to help with cooling. When this ‘extra’ fuel evaporates, it helps cool down parts of the engine block. With Bosch’s water injection system, a fine mist of water is injected into the intake duct before the fuel ignites, which helps keep the engine cool without requiring extra fuel for cooling. As an added benefit, only a few 100mm of water is required for every 100km of driving, which means that the storage tank for the water injection system can be kept at a very compact size and has to be refilled only once in about 3,000km.
The water injection system is already in production and the first car to use this is the BMW M4 GTS, which is powered by a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine. It is also important to note that water injection does not come with any risk of causing rust or other damage to the engine, since no amount of water is left in the engine’s combustion chamber – every last bit evaporates before actual combustion happens inside the engine, and is expelled out from the vehicle’s exhaust system along with other exhaust gases. 
According to Bosch, the company uses a port injection system which costs relatively less to manufacture, and also offers distinct technical advantages over other systems. It also makes water injection suitable for large scale production, across multiple vehicle segments. Apart from BMW, Bosch expects many other car manufacturers to adopt the use of water injection for their high-performance cars in the near future.
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