Those engineers at the cutting edge of automotive design appear to be taking a page from NASA's Apollo program to land humans on the Moon in the 1960s.
Steadily, the problems of auto electronics and manufacturing are being broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces as complexity grows and development cycles shrink.
There is of course another factor at work here: The entire automotive supply chain is under enormous economic and political pressure to reduce costs while at the same time striving to retain automobile features that will bring buyers back to dealer show rooms.
There were essentially two design choices in getting to the Moon: You could go big, and I mean really big, in your rocket design in an attempt to land a behemoth on the lunar surface (with a really long ladder); or you could build a stack that would get an Apollo crew to lunar orbit so that a spindly yet agile 23-foot high, 25,000-pound lander would take two astronauts the last 60 miles and get them off the surface.
All that remained of the 36-story high Apollo Saturn V at re-entry was the command module at the top of the stack.
It worked every time, including one flight in which the Lunar Module served as a life boat.
Auto designers and researchers are now taking similar approaches in the design of new power trains and future automobiles.
At Argonne National Laboratory, for example, researchers at the lab's Transportation Technology R&D Center are using what they call the Modular Automotive Technology Testbed to put various auto electronics technologies through their paces.
Similarly, an emerging group of green auto technology developers are taking a modular approach in areas like power train development. Adura Systems Inc., which emerged this week (April 20) from stealth mode, bases its new electric power train design on a modular architecture designed to extend the range of buses and trucks to as much as 100 miles.
Adura's chief architecture, Jim Castelaz, will be providing a detail description of Adura's Modular, Electronic, Scalable Architecture in an upcoming technical article.
We invite readers to comment on that article, and to send us other examples of how modular design is reshaping the embattled global auto industry.