The role of electronics in the automotive sector is becoming increasingly important, with more vehicles featuring state-of-art engine management systems, electronic driver aids and high-end safety features controlled by advanced electronics and computer algorithms.
Given the inherent benefits, and also the challenges in the implementation of advanced electronics in vehicles, Auto Tech Review recently hosted the fourth edition of CTO Roundtable on Automotive Electronics. Held on 24 May in New Delhi, CTO Roundtable 4.0 saw participation from leading OEMs and suppliers, with thought leaders from the industry getting together for discussion and debate on the role of electronics in pushing the boundaries in propulsion and connectivity. Key focus areas included the role of electronics in achieving BS VI compliance, the future of IC engines (from the perspective of developments in electronic engine management systems), the road ahead for connected technologies, and the innovations in infotainment and navigations systems.
The modern day automobile has come a long way from using just hydraulics and mechanical systems, and now represents a highly evolved electronically-driven ‘mobility solution,’ with complex configurations and smart user interfaces.
A host of industries are involved in developing and integrating these technologies, and customers are willing adopters, ready to pay for the extra functionality that the use of electronics brings. ‘If we look at the automotive scenario and how it is poised today, there is a big drift in the industry, as we are witnessing higher complexities involved in vehicles. With the evolution of technology, these intricacies will reach the next level, where it won’t be limited to the car, but a lot of external ecosystems will blend in, and this will shape the future of mobility,’ said Sirish Batchu, Head – Advanced Electronics & Digitalisation, Mahindra & Mahindra.
Engines have traditionally been the centrepiece for automotive development, but as things stand today, electronic driver aids, navigation and infotainment, hybrid and electric cars, and even autonomous driving are the key elements that are driving automotive R&D globally. Electric mobility, coupled with the recent advancements in battery technology, is witnessing innovative new business models being developed around this form of transport. Connected car technology, with the help of telematics, is shaping up a lot of industry efforts and government initiatives. This has also attracted the attention of third-party operators and developers, who are willing to provide the infrastructure to fuel further developments in this space.
AN INDUSTRY IN TRANSITION
Individual mobility has witnessed drastic improvements in terms of safety, comfort and reliability. Connected car technology has broadened the horizon for electronic applications in vehicles and reduced the chances of fatalities occurring on the roads.
‘The auto industry today seems to be in transition between evolutionary, revolutionary and disruptive trends that all need to be managed at the same time, and we are at crossroads with multiple choices available. The global automotive industry has witnessed disruptive changes in production techniques and business models have been few and far between, but this traditional paradigm is rapidly changing with the advent of digital disruptions across the value chain. Digital engineering and 3D printing are shrinking product development timelines and costs, and are enabling advance driver assisted systems,’ said Jan O. Rohrl, Chief Technology Officer and Additional Director, Bosch Limited.
Speakers agreed that a key challenge for all automotive stakeholders is meeting the BS VI deadline of April 2020. While the transition from BS III to BS IV was a gradual process, the road to BS VI is expected to be more disruptive and complex. To deal with this, the industry needs to utilise its holistic understanding of the market and pre-empt the challenges which might appear over the next few years.
With the increase in the use of electronics in the powertrain, there is a huge scope for advanced research in this domain. ‘Control systems need to be integrated better within the electronic structure and with more sensor-based technologies coming in, the possibility of identifying challenges within the system and addressing them on time is far greater today,’ said Dr Vineet Dravid, Managing Director, Comsol India.
Skipping BS V and moving directly to BS VI will pose a tough challenge for powertrain developers and function calibrators, said Harjap Singh Sohi, Director, EbyT Technologies & Advisor Powertrain CoE, iCAT. ‘From the air system arrangement, to the fuel system configuration and aftertreatment, it will all need to be reassessed and reworked according to the latest specifications. With testing and validation facilities in India fast matching up to global standards, benchmarking should not be an issue in the days to come,’ said Sohi.
The advent of BS VI technology will entail skills upgradation across multiple verticals in a manufacturing setup. ‘In the past, engine calibrators only had to work on engine management systems. Now the ambit has increased to the transmission assembly, the aftertreatment unit and the advanced electronic integration between various components. With the different electronic units within a vehicle communicating with each other, it will become a complex task for calibration engineers to manage over 40,000 parameters, which will need to be calibrated by 2020,’ said Sameera Damle, Head of Technical Sales & Engineering Solutions, ETAS Automotive India. However, with these in place, electronic aids will ease the need for manual interference in the long run and speed up response times. This will also make simulation activities more affordable and ensure that error detection happens early in the production cycle.
ELECTRONICS TO DRIVE EFFICIENCY
The first session on powertrain electronics was followed by a panel discussion on electronics and the future of IC engines. It delved into the role of electronics in driving efficiencies and value through performance enhancement for engines. ‘Leapfrogging from BS IV to BS VI poses inherent challenges to the automotive industry in terms of improving aftertreatment facilities, test and validation facilities and meeting the OBD norms. The time for implementation is less and the parameters to meet emissions reduction norms are quite high,’ said Rajesh Jain, General Manager Sustainable mobility and Advance Technologies, VECV. Fuel efficiency remains the most important requirement for engine development and all advancements towards BS VI will revolve around creating greener mobility platforms.
Tapan Sahoo, Senior VP, Engg., Research, Design & Development, Maruti Suzuki India, mentioned that on the road to BS VI, the challenges for diesel vehicles outnumber those with petrol units, due to diesel particulate matter management. ‘There are more than 100 application areas, which need to be either recalibrated or freshly introduced to meet BS VI guidelines,’ he said.
Today, connectivity is becoming a key enabler for customer expectations and cars are at the top of the priority list. ‘From highly intuitive infotainment systems to app-based mobility features, the customer finds it easier and more convenient to integrate their connected lifestyle with their cars. Real-time access to data in the vehicle promises an enhanced driving experience,’ said Julius Marchwicki - Director, Asia-Pacific, Connected Vehicles and Services, Ford.
As a result, auto makers are pushing for increased connectivity, both within the vehicle itself to deliver enhanced ‘pilot’ data to the driver, as well as connectivity to the internet for traffic and infotainment. Smart modules now address automakers’ growing demand for high-speed mobile data connectivity to support applications like advanced diagnostics, infotainment and remote software updates. These modules have the ability to run complex applications without an external processor, making it an ideal solution for the car makers to optimise cost and simplify manufacturing. ‘With vehicle volumes growing rapidly in the country, this is an opportune time for service providers to explore the vast opportunity in terms of connected car technology. For youngsters who are well-versed with the efficient use of technology, connected cars represent a natural option to migrate to, as it provides an extension of their existing lifestyle,’ said Tarun Aggarwal, VP (Engineering), Maruti Suzuki India.
SA Sundaresan, Director - MBSE Solutions, Siemens Industry Software (India), highlighted the importance of product lifecycle management (PLM) software in enabling connectivity through cars. The evolution of connected car technology is driven by three trends: the improvement in the computing power of the processors, the decreasing cost of data storage and increase in bandwidth. The combination of these three factors is creating an exponential change in the cost dynamics and the rate at which technology is finding its way into cars even at the bottom of the pyramid. ‘The fine line between automotive companies and software service providers is gradually disappearing, as technology and the vehicle is becoming one,’ he added.
The proceedings at the CTO Roundtable were wrapped up by a final panel discussion, which focussed on innovation in infotainment and connected technologies in India. Farhana Haque, Vice President and Business Head - Internet of Things (IoT) India, Vodafone, said that India is in the midst of a digital revolution, which is expected to cause significant disruption in multiple markets. ‘Apple and Google are developing cars, and Ford launched its Kuga SUV in the Mobile World Congress rather than a car expo. These are clear indications that technological boundaries have blurred and this is just the beginning of things to come.