Inside Conti’s experimental, semi-autonomous vehicle.
Volkswagen crash tests a vehicle with a piezoelectric sensor film.
Intel Inside Your Dash
In anticipation of the exploding growth of Internet content and mobile devices in motor vehicles that’s expected to continue to expand, Intel (intel.com) is putting its money where its market data is by establishing a $100-million Connected Car Fund. Fund manager Intel Capital didn’t specify which automakers or suppliers could be worthy investments, but it identified the broad areas of interest: in-vehicle infotainment, advanced driver assistance systems, and improved mobile connectivity with an emphasis on interfaces such as speech recognition, gesture recognition, and eye tracking.
Intel also recently established its new Automotive Innovation and Product Development Center in Karlsruhe, Germany, which will be the hub for testing, integrating and designing new in-car technologies. Additionally, the company said it is investing in growing the Intel Labs Interaction and Experience Research, an initiative to share ideas among academia, the auto industry and Intel.
Improving the EV to Grid Dialogue
Electric vehicles and the grid still aren’t on good speaking terms. Semiconductor firm Renesas Electronics Corp. (renesas.com), powerline communications maker Ariane Controls (arianecontrols.com), and grid software company Grid2Home (grid2home.com) have teamed up to supply a platform to help manage the discussion between EVs and utilities.
The key elements of the platform, known as SE-CPM, are Renesas’ V850 microcontrollers, Ariane Controls PLM-1 core and Grid2Home SE2.0 software. The companies say the system is designed to help reduce grid disruption from (presumably wide-scale) EV battery charging. The platform can act as a translator from a home area network to the meter, with the goal of managing the load and potentially using the car battery as a backup energy source during an outage or high electrical demand. The firms are offering the solution as a development platform for automakers and charging station manufacturers for testing and evaluation.
The platform will help to establish a new SAE (sae.org) communications standard between EVs and Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSEs), according to Rich Scholer, the chairman of the SAE Communication Task Force.
Caught on (Piezoelectric) Film
The Hermes space plane, Europe’s would-be answer to the Space Shuttle, was scuttled two decades ago. Although the craft never broke the bounds of gravity, one of its legacies could be safer Earth-bound vehicles.
A flexible polymer piezoelectric sensor film, developed for the project by German engineer Paul Mirow at Technical University Berlin, was designed to measure the pressure on the craft’s wings during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Mirow’s company has adapted the foil as an alternative to automotive crash sensors, which sometimes are vulnerable during an impact.
According to the European Space Agency, the 30-micron foil strip includes a flexible printed circuit board with a 50-channel amplifier. The foil, which would cover the surface of a vehicle, records the electrical impulses created by the mechanical deformations, e.g. car crashes.
The agency said Volkswagen has evaluated the techno-logy for the last two years and recently crash tested a vehicle with the film.