INTELLIGENT WORK FORUMS
FOR ENGINEERING PROFESSIONALS

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Jobs

European Auto Engineering Theme

European Auto Engineering Theme

(OP)
Taking a broad look at the major european cars imported to the U.S, what do you think about the engineering work done on them for the past 15 years? I think most of us already know that there is enough technology to fly you to the moon and back.. What I am wondering is- Do you think they have reached the point of diminishing/negative returns for adding (certain) digital/mechanical systems to a car that is for the middle class consumer? Or do you think its getting better now that this digital technology in cars isn't actually uncharted waters anymore? Are their intents for endurance and reliability different than in past years?

In my experience, the mechanical systems are not hard to own and maintain. But the sensors, unpredictable programming in the computers, and interdependent modules & computers were the most problematic parts on my Volvo S60T5. That car was fun to drive, but the drive-by-wire was laggy, and the ECU hindered performance with torque limiting it in lower gears. It also broke down a lot. I never had those problems in any of my Toyota and Ford cars (yes I know volvo was actually ford-owned the year mine was produced)



"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

The middle class is disappearing, but that's a different issue.

The beauty, and the curse, of electronics, is that the incremental cost to add a feature is essentially zero, in the sense that the silicon cost doesn't go up, and essentially very high, in that development of software is expensive.

... but once you've spent the money to engineer a new feature for a high end car, you can spread out the development cost by adding the feature to the rest of your product line, and even bring in some money by selling it to your competitors.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

There's no doubt a lot of the new features are used once or twice and then never used again, whether it is because they are perceived as useless or because the owner forgets they are there.

However their utility is not primarily why they are fitted. They are fitted because it gives motoring writers something to write about, and people who buy new cars play spec-itis.

Of course it would help if you were to identify which systems you are talking about. My personal 'why bother' tech is flappy paddle gearshifts. Whereas I think reversing cameras and sensors are brilliant (since I tow a trailer).

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

(OP)
Yeah I would narrow it down, but there is so much of it and I don't want to get fixated on technical details of one or two systems.

I think a lot of the ideas are great. What I have issue with is how interdependent they are in some cases. I had a post-cat O2 sensor go bad on that volvo, and it caused a no-start condition. In fact, it died on the road while driving it home from getting a different issue fixed that also caused a no-start condition. Then the price of said parts was incredibly high, and I couldn't get any other brand but "Volvo" for certain parts because they had to be married to the ECU-- or it would not run

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

The most tech laden vehicle I have is a late model FiatChrysler van (a.k.a. Fiat Ducato with a Chrysler engine and transmission).

Things that it has and how it rates on the "good/bad" scale:
ABS/ESP - Good
Back-up camera and alarms - Good (especially on a van, which inherently has lousy rear visibility)
Bluetooth phone synchronisation (Uconnect) - Good. But ...
Touchscreen (Uconnect) - Bad. Touchscreens have no place in any control that a driver has to interact with. Fortunately, most of the important functions have buttons. Uconnect seems to strike a reasonable balance. Too much reliance on the touchscreen ... is a bad thing.
Modern engine with variable valve timing etc (Chrysler V6 Pentasar) - Good (I can't complain about the fuel consumption considering the size of it)
Keyless entry - Good
Normal (dumb) cruise control - Good
Trip computer with fuel consumption, range-to-empty, etc - Good but it would be nice to be able to go through the choices in both directions, rather than having to advance through all of them to go back to the one you were just on.
Transmission (Chrysler 62TE) - So-so. If I put it in manual shift mode then go into the gear I select. If I want 6th, then gimme 6th, not 4th! Manual shift mode only locks it out of the gears higher than the one you select. Their calibration annoyingly downshifts on downhills to stop it from picking up speed by coasting down the hill. Fine ... until I WANT it to pick up speed by coasting down the hill ... you can't!

Things that it doesn't have ...
Pushbutton starting. Bad idea. I'd just as soon have a good old fashioned key - which it does.
Distance-following cruise control. Reserve judgment until I try a vehicle with it. Potentially good on highways.
Lane-keeping, blind-spot alarms, etc - Reserve judgment. Meh.
Automatic braking - Seriously reserve judgment. Serious potential for the system to do the wrong thing.

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

(OP)
"Automatic braking - Seriously reserve judgment. Serious potential for the system to do the wrong thing"

Its funny you should mention that one haha.

I hate to single-out volvo so much, but:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8nnhUCtcO8


"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

i would say that some of the electronics are essential while others are not.

the integration of engine management, transmission management, ABS, ESP, traction control etc has made cars better, cleaner, safer and more comfortable. there is more to come and we will eventually end up that can drive on certain roads without any activity from the driver....

other features like connectivity (phone, internet) will appeal to a lot of people, but also can cause safety issues. connectivity to the outside world may also introduce security hazards.

one thing that certainly could be improved upon is the user interface - some of the new cars have a lot of features that are very hard to use,

reliability is a somewhat mixed bag. cars have no doubt improved on that, but once the break down there is no easy way to repair as you could with a simple set of soanners and screwdrivers in the past.

what actually worries me more then the abundance of electronics is the increase in weight due to things like better passenger protection, airconditioning, heated seats, power steering etc. those features have pushed up the weight quite considerably, nullifying quite a bit of the improvements made in fuel consumption.

adding all kinds of electronic gadgetry is partial a marketing item: european cars can sell at premium prices because of those relatively low cost items, asian cars are less sophisticated and perhaps better suitable for use in areas where qualified service personnel is essentially scarce....

maybe we should design a modern equivalent of the Citroen 2CV, the Renault 4, the Volkswagen beetle and the Fiat 500....simple and cheap.

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

(OP)
I agree with that. Or have the systems more independent of eachother and easy to trouble shoot.

One issue I have is with the layout and how hidden all of these systems are. I want my engine compartment very organized. There should be one panel with the control systems in it, much like a PLC set up to run an engine. Seperate boxes within, and totally visible wiring. An interface that displays the readings from each input would be nice as well.

If that were the way these were set up, I would be much more enthusiastic about them!


"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

So how much would you pay extra for a car that you and maybe 5% other of new car buyers can or would debug? I have had something like 20 new cars in 20 years, NONE have let me down on the road other than blown tires or running out of fuel (gamesmanship with estimated range).

Do you actually buy your cars new? If not then your opinion is almost irrelevant. Car companies sell cars to new car buyers.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Panther140 said, "Do you think they have reached the point of diminishing/negative returns for adding (certain) digital/mechanical systems to a car that is for the middle class consumer?"

Th "diminishing returns" phenomenon that is part of almost all increases in complexity in nature is overbalanced by the sheer magnitude of the rate of increase. Not only can the mechanical and combustion systems be operated ever closer to perfection, but the cars can also do things never contemplated before, as we have seen. So cars will be better cars and cars will also better drivers and who knows what else.

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

(OP)
Are you familiar with the cars I am talking about?

Closed loop EFI, variable valve timing, and well-designed combustion chambers are not what I am referring to as excessive.

I'm talking about cars so ridiculous that I'm surprised they used glass for a windshield instead of a front-mounted camera and a big screen TV mounted on the dash-- Connected to a big, hackable network of course.

Electronic steering where no mechanical connection exists between the steering wheel and the steering rack is a good example of that exact same idea.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

(OP)
GregLocock (Automotive)23 Sep 15 00:51
Neither of which are for sale.

*Not exactly
*Yet

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Do tell me which legislature allows, or intends to allow, a steering system without a direct mechanical link between the hand wheel and the road wheel? I suppose one approach might be that after truly autonomous vehicles are permitted then the manual override could be electronic, and then that technology could trickle out into the rest of the fleet. There certainly are significant advantages.



Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Greg, why would the car itself inherently need a direct mechanical connection between any of its functions. Are you assuming some human needs to put his grubby hands on anything if and when there is a ...malfunction...?
Although the car replaced the horse (and buggy) as a mode of individual mobility, the most important need is for transportation, which is not exactly the same. This, for the most part means mass transit. The car as a module of a mass transit system may not need any human participation in the actual function. The human may just make the request and the car will do the rest. The safe and efficient functioning of any complex system is best when sources of error are minimized. "Human error" is a biggy. Let's get rid of it.

In the march to this possible future we are at a primitive level. I'm not comfortable with "fly by wire" either, but if it works for aircraft....

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Why is this post called "European Auto Engineering Theme"?

I do not think that there is much difference in auto engineering in various parts of the world. What differs is that manufacturers do design their vehicles for certain markets and that North-American, Asian, European and African tastes differ.

You may also notice that cars from all continents contain parts from other continents and that some manufacturers have plants in the USA and in Europe or Asia - producing quite different vehicles to cater for the local "taste" or infrastructure. Basically they are all the same nevertheless, although there are differences in refinement and the amount of electronics.

I have found electronics to be more reliable then mechanical parts. They break down differently however: usually mechanical parts fail gradually over a period of time, whereas electronics may fail all over sudden and eventually leave you stranded right away.

Future developments will nearly be all electronic, the latest important mechanical invention was the disc brake in the sixties of the previous age. Since then we have seen the introduction of sophisticated electronic engine- and transmission management in both gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles - something that never could have been achieved with the same sophistication by pure mechanics. The latest invention (common rail electronically controlled injection in diesel engines) took the world by storm in only a few years - not only in cars, but also in trucks and in very large two-stroke engines in ships!

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

I find the mechanical parts of electronic systems to be their weakest links. Switches and connectors fail with disturbing regularity. Frequently the failures are intermittent and the service centers are at a complete loss. All they do is replace parts until the problem goes away (if they can reproduce the problem at all). As often as not the replaced part is fine, the entire problem is the connection. They could use mil spec connectors on everything but then our cars would cost half as much as an F16.

However, I am dismayed at the high number of software revisions all these modern electronics require. Everything these days needs to be constantly updated. I took my 1 year old truck in for a door handle replacement that should have taken less than 30 minutes. Hours later the tech is still downloading software updates for the radio, the airbag controller and who knows what else. The software side seems to have no quality control as evidenced by the VW GDI fiasco.

----------------------------------------

The Help for this program was created in Windows Help format, which depends on a feature that isn't included in this version of Windows.

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Making simple comparisons between the electronic and mechanical components used on current production autos misses the point. Both mechanical and electronic systems used on autos are designed to provide the level of reliability and service life the specific application requires. There are many applications where electronic controls have been proven to perform extremely reliably, such as ABS or airbags.

I have a 2002 Chevy truck that I bought new and put 180K miles on since. It has been very reliable, and the few things that have required replacement were all mechanical (front wheel bearing, steering rack, water pump).

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Things that are not fun to deal with is modules that when replaced for some reason, they need some sort of special tool to be programmed to communicate with the other modules. That is where old school electronics shines easy plug and play.
The bad thing about letting electronics take over control of a vehicle is things can and do happen. How many times does your computer mess up and need a reboot or doesn't do something it is supposed to? Then there is the chance that someone else can take control of the vehicle for what ever reason.
"perform extremely reliably, such as ABS or airbags" do a search there are lots of cases of failures of the control systems.

Had to edit out "to"

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

And I think back to the good old days of cars that wouldn't start in the morning, or whose electrics fail, and I wonder exactly what the reliability of modern cars is compared with old ones. Fortunately we have the numbers. You are talking through your hat.

Cheers

Greg Locock


New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: European Auto Engineering Theme

Agree with the old cars. But just go back to the 90's there are ECU's and plenty of electronics, and you don't need to have to swap out all the ecu's when you just have to change one of them. I understand there are some Mercedes that once the module is linked if it craps out, you have to go get a new one, because once its linked that's it unless you want to DE solder the PROM and transplant it. The old school electronics was the best, at least on the old Japan cars.

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members!


Resources


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close