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23 May 2012

Rajan Wadhera is the Chief Executive of Technology, Product Development and Sourcing of the Automotive & Farm Equipment Sectors, M&M. A BTech & MTech from IIT Bombay, Wadhera also has a graduate degree of the Advanced Management Programme from the Wharton Business School, US. Prior to joining M&M, Wadhera was with the Eicher Group. Among other key responsibilities, Wadhera is faced with the challenges of identifying and harnessing synergies between M&M and Ssangyong Motors.

The MRV is clearly the most significant bet for M&M as far as research, engineering and innovation is concerned. How are your biggest challenges?

The needs of the Mahindra Group vis-à-vis the needs of the other players in the automotive industry are very different. Most global players get their developments done abroad, while their Indian suppliers manufacture them based on their manufacturing knowhow and deliver. These parts don’t need to go through any validation, because they are to design intent, and that is already proven either in the lab or on their vehicle testing. You’re only duplicating that in India. So, foreign brands in India are only doing indigenisation or localisation in India. 

To that extent, the challenge for us is much higher. We start from a scratch, a concept. Extensive market research is undertaken to understand various demographic trends, macro analyses and other macro-economic parameters that help us decide which segment we should be in. We have the disadvantage of being an Indian company trying to get into new product development. The challenge for us begins at the specification stage. From getting the specification right to clay modelling, and to committed surfaces and engineered surfaces – the challenges are increasing for us. 

Traditionally, Indian suppliers haven’t done engineering. So, unlike global players, Indian manufacturers like us have to engineer, make drawings and do design validation by ourselves. That’s the biggest challenge. Indian suppliers have perfected the art of manufacturing knowhow, but has no understanding of the design know-why.

The second part of the challenge is the availability of trained manpower. We are the first generation of engineers exposed to fundamental product development. As a very young company with just a 10-year history of product development, we have brought out three product families in the Scorpio, Xylo and the XUV500.

So, Indian vendors need to spruce up their engineering expertise to remain competitive?

Precisely; vendors have to be involved right from the stage when clay surfacing is done. They have to let us know if our styling is feasible. There is a concept of studio engineering, where our engineers are involved as well and they work with the suppliers. If some design can’t be manufactured, we got to get back to our drawing board to correct that. For instance, simulation techniques are exercised using CAE for material flow, metal flow and plastic flow.

Are Indian vendors up to the mark?

I must say Indian vendors have a long way to go. As I said earlier, they need to develop the design know-why capability and not stay happy with the manufacturing knowhow capability, else they’ll lose business to global suppliers. If Indian suppliers don’t scale up, why should I waste my product development phase by going to an Indian supplier?

And you do have a choice of doing so...

Yes, I do, but they don’t. Most Indian suppliers are happy servicing the needs of a few OEMs, and the volumes are such that they aren’t looking at the future, where they run the risk of getting consolidated. We are trying to extend our engineering knowledge to them, and hand holding them to the extent possible. But we don’t have the bandwidth, and it’s not a social mission. 

Lack of favourable government policies also prevent vendors from investing in basic R&D or engineering?

That is quite the case. I’ve seen the kind of support the Korean industry gets from its government. Korea has set-up government labs for safety, crash test, noise and vibration. While in India, even equipments bought for the NATRiP centre in Chennai is rotting in containers! We have started doing a lot of fundamental development and sourcing from China because of the government labs and facilities, subsidies and quality people.

What is the kind of research you’d undertake at the engine development centre at MRV? Could you throw some light on your strategy for engines? 

The engine development centre at MRV is to basically develop engines for durability, reliability, emissions, for driving calibration required and to make sure the overall NVH is under control. The engine development centre fundamentally works towards giving the best fuel efficiency, lowest sound, and enough margins in emissions. 

Does M&M believe in the premise of downsizing as a tool to increase efficiencies? What would be your approach to achieving efficiency in powertrains?

Downsizing is not an option anymore; it’s a compulsion. The only way we can improve fuel efficiency, reduce CO2, and lightweight is through downsizing. Downsizing is nothing but reducing friction, reducing parasitical losses and reducing weight. It brings its own challenges though – if you want to take out 100 hp from a three-cylinder engine vis-à-vis a four-cylinder engine, then the engine is going to produce more heat. The challenge is to take away the heat quickly. You have to design a thin-walled engine because a thick-walled engine will retain the heat inside and the power-to-weight ratio goes up. So, you need to take away the heat through processes of radiation and convection.

Would that also involve use of different materials? At the MRV, is there a provision for material research?

Material research is also getting triggered by CO2 reduction, lightweighting and better fuel efficiency. Lightweighting is a technology programme, spread across various centres of excellence. We are lightweighting seats, and the vehicle body by using high strength steel to meet crash and safety norms. We are also working on composites, which bring their own challenges. Composites are today used in high-end cars made by premium carmakers like Audi, Mercedes or BMW, where affordability is not an issue. For us to use composites to lightweight the vehicle will take the cost of the product up drastically. These technologies are available, but not affordable for that price point. Same is the case with aluminium for instance – they are not affordable for the vehicles in the Rs 2-10 lakh price bracket. 

We have a full-fledged material science lab and a polymer lab, where people are working on composites both in the concept proving stage as well as parts making stage, and using it on to the vehicles. 

What’s been your experience with the XUV500’s light weighting process?

Honestly, there isn’t much use of composites in the XUV500. It’s important to understand that the joining techniques of composites are not fully developed right now. We have used high strength steel to lightweight the XUV500. We are working on composites and have worked on an aluminium hood. But we are waiting for a certain commercial and techno-commercial feasibility before we put it on any programme. We have a lightweight aluminium hood ready. We are working on a complete tailgate in plastic and once it is fully cooked-off, it will go into a new programme. You can’t put any of these on an existing programme because the cost is very high. 

At the MRV, what’s the kind of work we’d get to see on safety?

Safety is a regulatory requirement on vehicles – not for India so far. But we are looking at safety norms coming into play in 2016, where we are likely to get crash and safety norms. Safety norms are mandated in developed markets of Europe, the US, and Australia and we are already selling vehicles in most of these markets. We can sell the XUV anywhere in the world, except the US market as it is not designed for the US market. It meets the safety and homologation needs of those markets. We have not invested in the safety and crash lab, because we expected the NATRiP centre on safety and crash test in Chennai to come up. Plus, we also have a full-fledged crash lab at SYMC R&D. We have already started using that lab for our requirements.

Electronics is another major focus area for you. Could you tell us more?

The electrical and electronic content in vehicles is going up – from the typical use of two to three ECUs to almost 32 ECUs currently; from 20 circuits to 200 circuits; from five sensors to 80 sensors. The fundamental research that is happening is largely on software development, which is very critical. Tomorrow, I could add a particular feature on the infotainment system in-house, and don’t have to go back to the same supplier. We are already doing some bit of it, and in three to five years, we should be completely self-reliant.

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Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

Photos: Mahindra & Mahindra

13 September 2016
TVS Jupitar IMG 2403
Scooters are serious business in India. While this segment has been witnessing significant activity and has undergone many ups and downs over the past few decades, the recent announcement of a scooter emerging as the highest selling two-wheeler in the Indian market has again shifted OEM priorities substantially towards these bread-and-butter commuter-friendly machines.
 
One company which has pioneered the CVT-equipped scooter in the domestic market is TVS Motor. The Chennai-based firm had created quite a stir in the Indian market with its 75 cc four-stroke Scooty in the distant past, and as things stand today, TVS does not intend to let go of its inherent strengths in offering value-for-money two-wheeler propositions across age groups and gender.
 
The case in point is the new 110 cc Jupiter. Launched in September 2013, this TVS scooter has managed to make significant inroads into the already crowded scooter segment. Recently, TVS introduced the MillionR Special Edition of the Jupiter to commemorate the sales of one million Jupiter scooters in the country over the 30 months of its existence.
 
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DESIGN & STYLING
 
The new limited edition offering is essentially a cosmetic upgrade over the existing Jupiter. So you get new colour options, dual-tone seats, chrome-finished rear-view mirrors and beige highlights for the internal panels and floor. It also gets a 200 mm front disc brake as standard fitment. In terms of convenience, there is a USB slot for mobile charging located under the seat. The external fuel tank lid is boon for commuters as it completely eliminates the need to step down during a visit to the fuel station.
 
The Jupiter, though well appreciated by customers, has often come under the scanner for its safe design philosophy, which can sometimes lack flair. With this limited edition, TVS seems to have addressed these concerns well and the new Jupiter exudes the look and feel of a premium product; again something which is an absolute must for the fast evolving scooter market in India.
 
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PERFORMANCE, RIDE & HANDLING
 
To begin with, the Jupiter was already a decent combination of performance and efficiency. The 110 cc, 4-stroke, single cylinder engine is air-cooled and offers smooth operation that’s comparable to its Japanese competition. With 7.9 hp of maximum power achieved at 7500 rpm, the engine feels relaxed and yet ensures that you do not run out of steam while riding through city traffic. Also, its 8 Nm of torque at a relatively low 5500 rpm provides enough mid-range grunt, ensuring stress-free overtaking at low and medium speeds, where most riders spend most of their time on this machine. 
 
The Jupiter uses an underbone type chassis, which the company claims is aimed at enhancing rigidity and cornering stability. This was evident during real world use, where the scooter feels planted even at relatively higher speeds, thus inspiring confidence in the rider. The telescopic suspension set up at the front and the gas charged mono shock at the rear work in conjunction to offer good ride quality – undulations on the tarmac are dealt with aplomb and the Jupiter does not display any weave or instability under hard cornering or heavy braking. Indeed, TVS seems to have got the chassis/suspension combination spot-on. 
 
What also helps the Jupiter’s riding dynamics is the disc brake up front, which, along with the 130 mm drum at the rear, offers very good stopping power. The 12-inch tubeless tyres on both wheels offer a fair amount of grip, which is more than adequate for everyday riding in all road and weather conditions. Even with a pillion on board, the Jupiter does not feel awkward to ride, and remains beautifully balanced at all times.
 
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INSTRUMENTATION
 
The instrument console on the MillionR edition is carried forward from the regular Jupiter, with an analog layout comprising of speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, econometer and multi-function indicator lamps. It also gets a passer-by switch and an easy-to-operate centre stand. The LED tail lamp assembly is visually appealing, while the econometer on the Jupiter guides the rider either to ride in the Eco mode or in the Power mode, with the former delivering better fuel efficiency, and the latter providing better pulling power at higher revs.
 
TVS is clear that it wants to pitch the Jupiter as a practical product, which would rather tick all the right boxes as a multi-purpose commuter machine, than merely being eye candy at a parking lot. The 17-litre underseat storage space, multiple hooks for your luggage and an ergonomic handlebar, seat and footpeg geometry all are attuned towards the Jupiter being a well-rounded package for the customer.
 
TVS Jupitar IMG 2377
 
CONCLUSION
 
Priced at Rs 53,000 ex-showroom Delhi, the new MillionR edition of the Jupiter does most things right for a scooter in its price range, and a bit more. TVS seems to have put in serious R&D effort into the Jupiter and the overall product does not disappoint. The engine feels smooth, power delivery is linear, throttle response is quick and handling is at par with the competition. With the new decals and livelier fascia, the Jupiter is a good value proposition for the discerning customer.
09 May 2013

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Hyundai’s i10 has been one of the most successful cars in its Indian portfolio, ever since its launch in 2007. Recently, the company reached a milestone of selling 1.2 lakh cars to customers across the world. In order to celebrate this milestone, Hyundai India launched a special edition model called i-Tech i10. Taking the celebration further, the company organised a drive across the country in order to showcase the performance, reliability, fuel-efficiency and the functionality of the new features. Auto Tech Review was invited to participate in the stretch from Udaipur to Mumbai, spanning close to 800 km.

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THE JOURNEY

The special edition model features additional features over the existing model, some of which are segment firsts. Mechanically though, the car remains the same and features the well-known 1.1 l and 1.2 l petrol engines. New inclusions are a rear view parking camera with a display on the rear view mirror and a steering mounted Bluetooth device. Design changes on the outside include new graphics, while inside the cabin one finds a new interior colour scheme.

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Our convoy was flagged from Udaipur with the destination for the day being Silvassa, more than 600 km away. Udaipur, being an historic city has narrow streets and hence traffic was congested but the i10 was easy to navigate around. The light steering and clutch make it easier to negotiate long durations in dense traffic.

Once out on the highway, the i10 performed well in terms of managing speeds in the range of 100 to 120 km/h. The only issue turned out to be the flowing roads from Udaipur through the Aravali range. Negotiating high speed turns wasn’t confidence-inspiring and the trade-off for a smaller tyre size in favour of fuel economy was evident here. The lack of feedback through the steering wheel didn’t help matters either.

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Overall, engine performance was impressive through the day as it responded well to hard acceleration. The only point of sluggishness was felt in the fifth gear due to which we had to frequently downshift to fourth in order to overtake long vehicles. The five-speed manual gearbox was smooth and in line with the urban focus of the vehicle. NVH levels are in line with segment levels and one can hear unwanted buzzes from the engine only after the 4,000 rpm mark.

In the afternoon, we hit the Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway, which was a real test for a family-oriented hatchback. The runway-like stretch covers a distance of about 100 km and is mostly straight. It was at this highway that the 1.2 l motor with 80 hp impressed us most, even though it was the most unlikely place. We managed to touch the top speed of the vehicle on this stretch and the engine responded well to shifts made close to the red line.

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By night, we reached Silvassa and even though we weren’t able to do a fuel efficiency test, we covered close to 650 km with less than one and a half tank of fuel. Put into perspective, the hard driving the little car endured through the day and we’re sure the numbers would’ve been pretty good. Overall, the i10 didn’t set any new standards of dynamism or performance but it did manage to remind us that it’s a very capable and versatile car and can handle the odd situation too at times.

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The following day, we had a much shorter run of 165 km to Mumbai, which meant we had time to explore Silvassa and get the customary photo shoot done as well. We visited the Silvassa lion sanctuary and the Madhuban dam in the early part of the day. Post that we hit the highway again for the remaining 165 km to Mumbai, where we reached by evening without any hiccups.

Round-Up

Features such as a reverse camera with a mirror integrated display add significant novelty to the car, especially in its segment. The Bluetooth device, which is mounted on to the steering wheel but not integrated into it,  offers further functionality and safety benefits but we found it a bit disturbing for the steering grip. The red interiors are something people will have to look at with subjectivity.

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The i-Drive India served as a good exercise to showcase the technical capabilities of the i-Tech i10. One must consider that the limitations we talked about arose only when the car was subjected to conditions it was never designed to address. The drive made it clear that the i10 is capable of performing in a somewhat impressive manner even beyond its envelope of limitations. Even though it might not look the freshest, the i10 is still a strong contender in its segment. The competitive pricing of the i-Tech edition means an even higher value return for the consumer in a price-sensitive segment. The i-Tech i10 is available in two variants and is priced as mentioned below:

Model

Price (in Rs ex-showroom, Delhi)

1.1 Era

4.24

1.2 Magna

4.57

Text & Photos: Arpit Mahendra

14 August 2012

For over a decade, the Bajaj Pulsar has maintained an undisputed top spot in its segment. Buoyed by regular updates of the product – be it through new variants, design or technologies – Bajaj Auto saw brand Pulsar growing from strength to strength. While Pulsar’s raw and muscular design language drew consumers to its showrooms, it was its performance-for-money quotient that guaranteed success. It’s hard to think of any motorcycle in the last decade or so, which did better than the Pulsar in terms of power delivered for the money. Yet there were some glitches, which although improved, did manage to stay with the Pulsar family for its entire life span. These included a not-so-smooth gearbox, knee recess on the tank, which was of no use, and a few other minor niggles. These however, never took away anything from the Pulsar, when it came to end-consumer appeal. 

However, a decade is a long time and the changes made to the series in the last five years or so weren’t really differentiating. Time called for an entirely new Pulsar, which would not only offer another groundbreaking design but advanced technology as well. A tough task it was for Bajaj Auto to redo or better its original effort. The answer came in the form of the Pulsar 200 NS, and we rode it extensively to find out if it lives up to the legacy left behind by its predecessor.

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Design 

In the flesh, the 200 NS looks a lot better than on screen or news spreads. The first thing one would notice is that the trademark bulging Pulsar tank has now been replaced by a newly-designed unit. Storage capacity has shrunk to a maximum capacity of 12 l. Visually though, the plastic panels alongside lend it with a larger yet sharper look. The overall sharp styling has been combined well with the swells around the headlamp. The unique design of the headlamp lends an aggressive stance to the motorcycle, when viewed from the front. The side profile is complimented by sharp yet smooth lines. The neatly tucked in exhaust in the underbelly not only looks good but does great for weight distribution, as it allows for a more balanced bias between both sides. 

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Switch gear and foot pegs suggest good quality from an initial viewpoint but their long-time wear and tear needs to be seen. The instrument console is easy to read in varied lighting conditions and offers good amount of data to the rider. The only downer in terms of visual appeal was the rear mud-flap. Of course, it’s a thing one can’t do away with, but given the overall design theme it looks more like an aftermarket attachment, not very appealing visually.Overall styling of the 200 NS doesn’t really leave much to desire for. It undoubtedly puts the company’s design language on a pedestal over its predecessor’s. For an Indian company that has become synonymous with innovation, this is a significant leap in the right direction.

Powertrain

A huge positive factor for Bajaj Auto in the development of the 200 NS was the access to KTM’s technology from the Duke 200. The Pulsar’s liquid-cooled 199.5 cc engine is largely based on KTM’s short-stroke engine for the Duke 200 and develops a little over 23 hp. Bajaj Auto, however, has added some of its unique engineering touches, which are good examples of frugal and effective engineering. While both engines are largely similar at the bottom, they adopt different approaches for the upper architecture. This engine is also the first liquid-cooled engine to be developed by the Pune-based manufacturer.

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The Pulsar mill, due to these changes, is quite different from the KTM unit in multiple ways. While the KTM unit uses a DOHC configuration, the 200 NS makes do with a SOHC set-up for its four valves. The engine pulls cleanly till 10,000 rpm and power delivery is smooth. Acceleration is quick and the engine sounds good once past about the 6,000 rpm mark. Revving to about 10,500 rpm in every gear will bring up the 120 km/hr mark quickly and progress beyond that will take some time. We managed to clock a speedo-indicated top speed of 131 km/hr. The company claims the figure to be 136 km/hr and given the machine’s performance we have no reason to doubt that claim. Also, the Pulsar engine is carburetted instead of fuel-injected. While this may be surprising for some given the present technology state, the justification lies in the retail price, discussed in the latter part of this review.

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Another technology that sets it apart is the triple-spark combustion, one up from the dual-spark used till now. The usage of three spark-plugs theoretically leads to cleaner combustion in the chamber. This in turn allows the inclusion of a relatively smaller catalytic converter, leading to lower cost as well.Overall NVH levels are appreciable and significantly better than any of the earlier Pulsars. The engine pulls away cleanly from low rpm and is easy to operate in dense traffic. In fact, one can cleanly pull away from as low as 35 km/hr in the sixth gear without any engine jerks. The Pulsar for the first time features a six-speed gearbox. The gearbox features tall-ratios and hence in-gear acceleration suffers a bit. Still, this is the quickest accelerating Pulsar yet. The advantage of this gearing is a somewhat relaxed cruising nature of the engine and easier drivability in traffic. While the six-speed gearbox is significantly better than the earlier five-speed units, it still leaves some room for improvement. There will be moments when one might get that odd-false shift. Overall shifting is smooth and supports quick-shifting well. Owing to this tall-ratio gearbox and few other technologies the 200 NS is relatively fuel-efficient. Our test-cycle mostly included city-running and we got an average fuel-efficiency of 32 km/l. That is certainly a good number by segment standards and an easier riding style should push that figure north by another 4-5 km.

Handling & Ergonomics

The sharp looks of the Pulsar 200 NS rubs on to its on-road behaviour. The handling of the 200 NS comes as a welcome change for those in the market for a well-handling naked bike. The motorcycle is significantly agile than the previous Pulsar and is easy to flick. While the older Pulsars held their ground well, they weren’t too happy over quickly changing corners. The 200 NS though is better composed over a series of turns or sharp braking. A lightweight twin-spar pressed steel frame greatly enhances the agility of the 200 NS. A Nitrox mono shock absorber at the rear adds further to the bike’s handling and design attributes. The first thing one notices, when astride the motorcycle, is it’s significantly stiffer suspension set-up than the earlier Pulsars. The stiffness though isn’t much to result in an uncomfortable ride quality over uneven surfaces. 

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Another commendable improvement comes in the form of the Pulsar 200 NS’ braking stability. Braking from hard about 90 km/hr with a slight real-wheel lock, the 200 NS maintained a straight line and good composure. The good braking is a result of a 280 mm disc upfront and a 230 mm one at the rear, both being petal discs with floating callipers. Another welcome change aboard the 200 NS was the knee-recess. For the first time, Pulsar offered the rider with the luxury of recesses in the lower part of the fuel-tank that offer decent support while leaning into a corner. The motorcycle holds its line well in the corners and the absence of centre-stand results in eradication of the frequent road contact found with the earlier Pulsars. Removal of the centre-stand helps cost as well as improves handling a little bit by reducing the unsprung weight.

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The only and possibly the largest compromise made in favour of low-cost is the tyre set-up. The tyres at times completely negate the outcome from a chassis able of delivering more than readily extractable. In the wet, the situation only worsens and one might be caught with a suddenly outward-flicking tail. The compensating factor once again is the brilliant chassis, which to an extent puts the flicking action in slow-motion, lending the rider with enough time to make corrections. 

Technical Round-up

The Pulsar 200 NS is a giant leap for Bajaj Auto in technology terms. While it’s largely driven by KTM’s technology this time, one can’t take away any credit from Bajaj engineers for employing some mass-favouring effective solutions. The motorcycle has good road presence, and overall material quality too looks to be better than earlier but that would be best told by time.

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The packaging of the 200 NS is its highlight. It’s got everything a consumer in its segment would be looking at. At an ex-showroom, New Delhi, price of Rs 85,000, the 200 NS is great value-for-money and it’s hard to think of anything else that can beat it in terms of power and performance at its price-tag. In doing so, the country’s third largest two-wheeler maker has managed to take the game of performance a notch up.

Text: Arpit Mahendra

Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay

21 June 2013

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CB PRASAD, Head of Instrumentation & Driver HMI, Continental Automotive India

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Navigation, communication, infotainment and assistance systems – today drivers have access to all this information and more, at the touch of a button. If not delivered in the most meticulously planned manner, this information would overwhelm the driver rather than simplify his overall driving experience. Most automotive suppliers and vehicle manufacturers invest deeply into understanding and managing the flow of information in the vehicle.

One hundred and ten years ago, on October 7, the eddy current speedometer, equipped with a permanent magnet in constant rotation was patented by engineer Otto Schulze at the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin, Germany. The invention heralded the introduction of driver information instruments in the automobile, (1). Very soon, drivers were getting a whole lot more than just current speed. Driven by the growing demand for information at the wheel, and the diktats of public authorities, the speedometer developed from being an interesting feature in the car to the heart of modern driver information system.

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(1) Instrument clusters have gone through a long journey of development in the last 110 years

By 1910, automobile manufacturers began to include the speedometer as standard equipment. In the mid-1930s, an instrument cluster attached above the steering column grouped all the important gauges and indicators together, including those for engine revolutions, fuel, and turn signals. It was not until the mid-1950s that automobile speed measurement enjoyed its next major technology leap with the introduction of the electric speedometer – originally developed by VDO, which went on to become a part of Continental, for city buses.

The 1980s saw spectacular growth in the popularity of the electric speedometer. At a glance, the driver could monitor complex information with a choice of classic round instruments, text-based displays, indicator lights with LCD for navigation and communication. What started off as a mere speedometer over a hundred years ago thus evolved into the sophisticated instrument cluster that continues to be the central interface between the driver and the vehicle. And the best was yet to come!

COLOUR DISPLAYS

What followed was a breakthrough of high-resolution automotive colour displays. As these continue to grow in size, they may well come to take over the entire instrument cluster. Brilliant as computer monitors, with high contrast and capable of being controlled in a variety of ways, these screens are fast becoming the staging area for all key information. They provide a flexible and ergonomic solution for all information, including maps and intelligence from advanced driver assistance systems.

While today’s dashboard is still dominated by a combination of analogue indicators with different types of displays, the future will bring more and more high-resolution colour displays combined with  fewer analogue indicators. Select high-end vehicles are already seeing the introduction of full size free programmable clusters, allowing further scope for customisation.

Whether needle or display, or a mix of conventional and futuristic elements – thanks to innovations like Continental’s “black panel” technology, (2), drivers will barely be able to differentiate between indicator types at first glance. This technology places indicator elements on the instrument cluster behind a tinted layer of protective glass, fit so closely that there is no difference between the functional and decorative surfaces until one of the individual indicators is activated. This technique opens up new possibilities for designers to blend together instrument clusters and the cockpit, and integrate both elements even more completely into the interior concept.

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(2) Continental’s black panel technology enables better integration of instrument clusters & cockpit

Instrument clusters from companies such as Continental are not just managers for the in-vehicle flow of information, but tiny artists as well, offering high-quality graphics, brilliant colours, razor-sharp contours and complex animations. Large surface displays on instrument clusters also enable an expanded depiction of navigation information like eHorizon ("electronic horizon"). The display surface can also convey information on economical driving behaviour, where attractive visualisations encourage drivers to drive in ways that conserve fuel. This is supported through visual comparisons of different driving cycles. These depiction options for consumption and navigation information are also essential for electric vehicles, since those vehicles in particular are reliant on early reporting of energy status and driving behaviour.

With full size free programmable clusters, the potential is endless. In fact, developers are now thinking in terms of 'skins', various design themes that can be changed at the press of a button. Drivers can switch from a classic analogue design to digital readouts and bar graphs to virtual pointers in seconds. If this trend towards individualisation continues, each driver could even tailor the cockpit set-up to his or her own precise tastes using the set-up menu – to the extent that the law allows such customisation. That could mean personalised background images, for example. All settings can then be assigned to each individual driver's key, ensuring that the custom driving experience is always ready and waiting.

Whether full size free programmable clusters or those combining large displays with analogue elements, the new generation clusters offer limitless freedom for auto makers and drivers and seem poised to slowly but surely assume greater marketshare in the future.



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