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POWER ELECTRONICS I


f one single event could be said to have fi red the starting gun on the race for autonomy on our roads it is surely the Grand Challenge.


Organised in the USA by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2004, the premise was simple: build an autonomous vehicle to drive a route through the desert from Barstow, California, to Primm, Nevada. The fi rst one to arrive wins its makers US$1 million. On March 13th the 15 fi nalists that emerged from a qualifying round at the California Speedway set off in high spirits.


None of them completed the course. On October 8th the following year the prize money doubled, and Stanford Racing Team won, completing the 132 mile course in under seven hours. Four other teams also fi nished intact. DARPA states, “These challenges helped to create a mindset and research community that would render fl eets of autonomous cars and other ground vehicles a near certainty for the fi rst quarter of the 21st century.” That time is now.


THE FUTURE For vehicle manufacturers there are numerous challenges to overcome to attain full autonomy. Among the


most obvious is simply managing the enormous amounts of data required. With this in mind the latest platform from General Motors, to be fi tted on the 2020 Cadillac CT5, then across the whole GM range by 2023, features a fi vefold increase in capability over the fi rm’s current electrical architecture. With a processing power of 4.5TB of data per hour, it provides enhanced communications within the vehicle itself and to outside sources due to Ethernet connections of up to 10Gbps. As a hedge against the future, it is designed to be upgraded when necessary with what GM calls “an expanded capacity for smartphone-like over-the-air software updates, the system enables the adoption of functionality upgrades throughout the lifespan of the vehicle.” Mark Reuss, GM president, comments, “The critical role of software and its importance to our vehicles, both now and for years to come, cannot be overstated. Our new digital vehicle platform and its eventual successors will underpin all our future innovations across a wide range of technological advancements, including EVs and expanded automated driving.” In fact GM could claim to be something of a pioneer in this regard, with its long-running OnStar system.


The company is currently running a marketing campaign citing FBI statistics claiming that a vehicle is stolen every 41 seconds in the USA. The latest state-of -the-art system includes a stolen vehicle slowdown facility, a remote ignition block and a text alert system if the alarm has been triggered.


SECURITY IN MIND With greater onboard electronics and autonomy in particular comes inevitable concerns over security. Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata, due out in the third quarter of this year, will feature a new digital key app created by Trustonic. Using near fi eld communication (NFC) to detect an authorised smartphone, the system has a detector antenna in the driver’s door handle to lock and unlock. A second antenna for starting the engine is located in the wireless charging pad in the centre console. Also Bluetooth low energy (BLE) communication can be used to control certain functions remotely such as starting the engine or activating a panic alarm from up to 30m away. Up to four users can be programmed


into the system, with each individual’s vehicle settings (seats, radio stations, mirrors, etc.) activated on entry.


A mine of information


Although much of the public focus of autonomy has been on road-going traffi c, the mining industry has been quietly automating its machines for years. For example Caterpillar dumper trucks fi tted with the MineStar Command system have shifted over a billion tonnes since the fi rst six trucks went live in 2013. This equates to 35 million kms driven without an incident related to the reliability of the system. Volvo, Telia and Ericsson


are examining the potential for 5G to be used for autonomy at a mine. Volvo CE’s technical specialist for


Connected Machines, Calle Skillsäter, says, “We will be testing this technology for two years. Over this time, we will see the performance of the network evolve and get better. What is really exciting is that at this very early stage, we are in a unique position to iron out any problems and play a key role in actually infl uencing how 5G will work for industrial purposes when it is rolled out more widely. “It’s not just mining. The


forestry industry could certainly benefi t, as an industry where you have lots of incoming trucks loading and unloading on to trains, often at night.


The project will run for two years


Clearly, working at night offers dangers for visibility so removing operators makes the operation more safe. For really dangerous jobs in the steel industry or the energy sector, where physically moving material can risk explosion or toxic gas emissions, then removing people is clearly a good solution.”


www.engineerlive.com 39


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