Technology and Innovation (TI) have been the hallmarks of automotive industry and continue being so. Innovation is an imperative since an automobile is faced with different driving scenarios in different environs, has to meet regulatory norms in different regions, cater to customer aspirations, be energy efficient and has to be affordable. Over the years, innovations and technologies from aerospace industry have made it to the mobility world in a steady sustainable manner.
In the larger framework, innovations and technologies in vehicle subsystems are encompassed around materials, electronics and communication networks, control strategies, and energy generating devices. All these focus to enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions as well as meet customer aspirations.
The oldest invention, wheel, has connected mankind through mobility and enabled trans-continental migration. From times known it has gone through innumerable evolutions due to TI that have made it lightweight, have low drag resistance, operable on-road and off-road, integrate electric motors, integrate brakes and of course come in various sizes that range from about 5 to 60 inches. Integrated with the wheel are tyres, starting from being solid rubber on rims, tyres with tubes, tube-less tyres to tweels.
Powertrains have changed from the basic fuel burning device coupled with a gear box for mobility; to advanced efficient engines, hybrids, electric and transmissions – manual, dual-clutch, automatic and eventually wheel hub motors that sometimes make transmissions redundant. It is not just about reducing hardware and optimising configurations, it is about innovating combustion, combustion chamber, pistons, fuel spray patterns, powertrain dynamics, control strategies and the controllers that manage power delivery based on driver demand. Further, the perennial demand on energy efficiency, lower emissions and recyclability has integrated material innovations in powertrains.
Lightweighting is the cornerstone of mobility industry. Material innovations with related technologies to manufacture components have expanded avenues in styling of automobiles, improved crash worthiness encompassing safety, formability, reduced costs and improved energy efficiency. Mobilising innovations in material technologies has enhanced fuel efficiency. It has improved cost/km and lowered cost of ownership.
Energy storage devices have seen drastic changes due to material innovations through better energy density and compactness. The weight of batteries and form factors – common barriers to fuel efficiency – have significantly dropped, though there is a lot more to be done. The weight optimising of a chassis with the same ride comfort and reliability has been possible due to material innovations and technologies. The changing chassis configurations across vehicle segments with different powertrains have been conceivable due to material technologies and innovations in composites, embedding nano-technologies and manufacturing techniques.
Facets of virtual engineering tools, electronics, controls, Internet of Things, and embedded systems have been major drivers of time to market, speed in communication and energy efficiency. Several innovations in XIL have brought down the time to market, reduced costs and improved systems integration. Virtual engineering tools and process innovations have improved reliability, robustness, reduced test prototypes, and finally, optimised project management. The reduced size of electronics, better thermal management, layered displays, embedded architectures and communication protocols have transformed vehicle lifestyles. Autonomous vehicles are gradually growing due to TI that are being leveraged from different domains to integrate mobility solutions.
Manufacturing processes and logistics have used TI for efficiency and productivity. Skill development has transformed in newer domains, while in parallel strengthening the conventional ones due to innovations in techniques of enhancing knowledge at a faster and sustainable pace. TI has been leveraged for improving customer lifestyles, mobility patterns, speed to market, lower emissions and energy efficiency. These have, together, made the industry sustainable albeit with dynamic targets that are now achievable in shorter timespans.