Wednesday | 11 October, 2017 | 8:58 am


By Corinna Petry

What’s trending // Autonomous vehicles, greater connectivity, alternative fuels and safety research occupy engineers and designers



October 2017 - There are scads of technological developments in the automotive industry, especially the advancement of human-machine interaction, and it’s imperative that suppliers keep track of them. Modern Metals selected recent announcements from two major carmakers, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., for a snapshot of what’s down the road.

Although they were once slow to change, most vehicle builders are evolving like quicksilver to meet the wants and needs of consumers while trying to do so in a way that’s sustainable for the environment.

India’s Mahindra Group and Ford are exploring a strategic alliance involving teams from each company that will work together for three years on mobility programs, connected vehicle projects, electrification, product development and sourcing, among other work.

“The growing importance of mobility and affordable battery-electric vehicles are all aligned with our strategic priorities,” Jim Farley, Ford’s Global Markets president, stated on Sept. 18.

Separately, on Sept. 15, Ford contributed $5 million to the American Center for Mobility (ACM) to support connected and automated vehicle technology development. ACM is a non-profit testing, education and product development facility that can help carmakers enable safe validation and self-certification of connected and automated vehicle technology, and set standards.

In August, Ford signed a memorandum of understanding with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. Ltd. (Zotye Auto). It proposes a 50-50 joint venture that would produce all-electric vehicles sold under an indigenous brand for Chinese customers.

“Electric vehicles will be a big part of the future in China and Ford wants to lead,” stated Peter Fleet, president of Ford Asia Pacific. Ford expects the market for new energy vehicles in China to grow to 6 million units per year by 2025, of which 4 million vehicles are likely to be all-electric. Ford has invested $4.5 billion to build EVs and will introduce 13 new electrified vehicles globally in the next five years.

Toyota technology

The California Energy Commission recently awarded a $16.3 million grant to a subsidiary of Shell Oil Co. to open seven hydrogen refueling stations in Northern California. Honda and Toyota are subsidizing a portion of the costs.

“A range of different fuels and vehicle technologies will be needed to meet transport needs in a low-carbon energy future. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are one of these solutions,” said Oliver Bishop, hydrogen general manager for Shell.

Inside the passenger compartment, Toyota has developed hybrid navigation and voice recognition functions that operate via cloud computing and on-board computing. Toyota has begun to roll out the new navigation systems installed in new models sold in Japan. These new functions enable drivers to calculate and present faster routes to destinations; provide a larger selection of possible routes to choose from; and simplify the use of voice command for multimedia systems.

Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just launched 11 new research programs studying the opportunities and addressing the challenges of emerging vehicle technologies. Partnering with eight research institutions in North America, with funding of up to $35 million, the projects will query the impact of advanced technology on broader road safety trends and the interaction between humans and machines.

“Autonomous and connected vehicle technologies are just beginning to transform the transportation landscape,” the center’s director, Chuck Gulash, stated.

Big data consortium

Denso Corp., Ericsson, Intel Corp., Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., NTT Docomo Inc., Toyota and an IT subsidiary are forming the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium. Its objective is to develop an ecosystem for connected cars to support emerging services such as intelligent driving, the creation of maps with real-time data and driving assistance based on cloud computing.

Data volume between vehicles and the cloud is estimated to reach 10 exabytes per month around 2025, or 10,000 times larger than the present volume. This will trigger the need for new architectures of network and computing infrastructure to support distributed resources and topology-aware storage capacity. The consortium will focus on boosting network capacity to accommodate big data between vehicles and the cloud.

These projects represent a small fraction of what the global automotive industry is pursuing for the future motoring public.

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