Tech Watch - 4/17

McLaren’s Homemade Carbon

Performance icon McLaren Automotive built its first carbon fiber chassis in 1993 for the McLaren F1, and every year since it’s been the material of choice. Now those inner structures will be forged locally in the UK, instead of through supplier Carbo Tech, based in Austria. 

McLaren will break ground later this year on a new Composites Technology Centre near the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC; amrc.co.uk). After its completion in 2020, the facility will employ 200 workers to develop and produce the Monocell chassis (a single piece carbon fiber chassis as found in its Super Series models, such as the 650S) and the Monocage chassis (or single shell, as found in the 570S). In the meantime, the carmaker says it will work with the AMRC to develop new automated manufacturing techniques to produce the next generation Monocell chassis for near-future McLaren cars. Those techniques will be adopted when the center goes online into full production in 2020. 

By “in-sourcing” carbon fiber production, McLaren expects to save around £10-million ($12.5-million) compared to today’s costs.
 


Find New Roads, Or Adapt to Old Ones

Potholes are the equivalent of an analog problem that shows no sign of giving way to a digital future anytime soon. ClearMotion (clearmotion.com), a Boston startup with technology licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says this infrastructure reality undergirds its value proposition: software that softens the rough ride. 

ClearMotion seeks to replace traditional automotive shock absorbers with software-controlled actuators, manipulating the wheels quickly to anticipate the road ahead. 

"Self-driving functionality mandates a future in which cars afford not just driving pleasure, but the utility of a mobile office,” said Shakeel Avadhany, CEO and co-founder of ClearMotion. “We are focused about the quality of time in autos and how we transform it by digitizing our relationship to the road, allowing software to control the dynamics of the car.”

ClearMotion closed $100 million in Series C preferred stock financing from investors, including J.P. Morgan Asset Management, and has raised a total of $130 million. 
 


Wisdom in the Crowdsource

2018 BMWs with camera-based Advanced Driver Assist Systems will be nodes in a real-time crowdsourcing system with Mobileye (mobileye.com), a computer vision and machine-learning firm. In the short term, the project is all about generating real-time mapping systems and producing safer navigation systems. In the longer-term, the companies see it as one of many system-level precursors to autonomous driving. 

The cameras will act as “intelligent agents, the companies say, funneling up to 10 kilobytes every kilometer of anonymized data through Mobileye processors and software, to the cloud. All this data will create high definition maps to anticipate traffic snarls, find better routes or help drivers find elusive parking spaces. BMW and Mobileye will partner with mapping and location service firm HERE to create continuously updating maps. The end result, says BMW, will be bringing “highly automated” driving by 2021 in the form of BMW’s iNext model.