In times when the public rages over skyrocketing prices for gasoline and diesel, a segment of the electronics industry hitherto working unseen and disregarded by most users suddenly finds itself in the glare of public interest: automotive electronics.
Drivers around the world are now relying on electronics to realize their hopes for better fuel efficiency. And they are right to do so, because electronic controls – together with novel engine and drive architectures – are the key to the environmental sustainability of individual mobility.
And besides energy efficiency and environmental friendliness, the electronic ecosystem under the hood of our cars must deliver safety. In Europe, the number of casualties from road traffic accidents is now less than half what it was in the early seventies – despite a doubling of cars on the road.
Today’s drivers are more safety-conscious, but this improvement has been achieved mainly by the electronics that prevents wheel locks and controls airbags and brakes, distance and speed.
From an electromechanical system supported by a few switches the technology has grown to a complex network of embedded computers, interfaces, bus systems and software. But complexity has its downside. It’s become almost impossible to service our own vehicles and complexity drives prices and error rates upwards.
Automotive electronics has to navigate out of this cul-de-sac even while the integration of the mobile wireless node and consumer electronics into the car is creating the equivalent of a jet-fighter that operates on four wheels.
Individual mobility is facing enormous challenges. When masses of people in emerging countries ask for the same mobility we have enjoyed in the industrial world, how can this be achieved with comfort, safety and while protecting the environment and at much lower prices? These issues will keep automotive engineers busy for decades.
European automotive electronics has achieved a world-leading position, but to maintain this position is a daunting challenge. With our website, Automotive DesignLine Europe, we aim to provide key information – industry news as well as engineering articles, written by industry experts for engineers. It is no coincidence that on our DesignLine web sites, 'how-to' articles take a predominant position. We know that engineers typically have to find answers to the question 'how?' And the answer to the 'how?' of Automotive DesignLine Europe is to type www.automotivedesign-europe.com into an Internet browser.
Site editor of Automotive DesignLine Europe
This story appeared in the EE Times Europe print edition covering August 25 - September 7, 2008. European residents who wish to receive regular copies of EE Times Europe, subscribe here.
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