Auto Electronics

Converging at Convergence: Forces Align to Alter Market

The bi-annual Convergence event is always an exciting one, and I am particularly looking forward to it this year. As the editorial director of the Electronic Design Group, I get to attend events in a lot of different vertical markets, but I don't think any of them is more interesting than automotive electronics.

Thinking back to the last Convergence show, one exciting highligh — maybe in the category of a “little too exciting” — was the ride I took as part of the GM Dedicated Short Range Communications demo: seatbelt-less, we trusted the vehicle-to-vehicle communications in our Caddie to handle the braking as the car in front of us slammed to a halt. That'll wake you up!

Check out the article, “Thanks To Active Safety Systems, You Won't Buy It If You Don't Brake.”

Maybe such excitement is all in a day's work for those of you who devote yourselves to the auto electronics field. For you, Convergence offers a chance to showcase your coolest new technologies and to roll out your best for the media — and the world. Both in the conferences and out on the show floor, it's amazing to check out the latest achievements in active safety systems, technologies like driver-alertness monitoring, GPS-enhanced driver warning systems, blindspot monitoring and so much more.

This year's Convergence is particularly important given the great emphasis on energy efficiency and all things green. Obviously, these are challenging times for the auto — and particularly the light truck — industry, now putting on the full-court press to launch electric, hybrid and alternative technologies. The good news is all the developmental work that has been done on these technologies over the past years; now the push from consumers, government and industry is “converging” to make these alternative technologies a new market reality.

Hybrid and electric vehicles are in high demand, and even as gas prices fall back a bit from their wallet-emptying highs, the SUV era seems to be on the wane. If my own experiences represent the “mainstream,” my brother is now driving a Prius and I have added my name to the waiting list for the Chevy Volt (number 39,546 on the list!) And while Honda and Toyota took an early lead in the hybrid camp, the US automakers are readying plenty of strong new technologies. As I write, US automakers are seeking increased government loans to overhaul their plants more quickly to get more fuel efficient vehicles to market.

The global race is on to see who can build these next-generation vehicles. The Chevy Volt site includes a Q&A asking, “Aren't you the guys who killed the electric car?” Jill Banaszynski, manager of Electric Vehicles replies, “The good news is that both the technology and the GM team who developed the EV1 live on. Chevy's next generation of low- and zero-emission vehicles … all feature technologies and innovations from the EV1.” The launch date of the Volt is dependent on improvements in battery technology. Length and speed of battery charge was the EV1's Achilles heel too, but there has been tremendous progress since that time. Covergence's sessions on battery technologies, with titles like “Energy Stewardship: The Efficient Generation and Consumption of Electrical Energy in Automobiles,” should be among the most important sessions of the show.

The power electronics industry is certainly focusing on the opportunity represented by the move to battery-powered cars. As an example, Auto Electronics magazine partnered with Infineon on the “Rev Up Fuel Efficiency” design contest, looking for designs that enable or improve energy efficiency in automotive applications. If you are attending Convergence, be sure and attend the awards ceremony that will take place on Tuesday Oct. 20 at 1:30 p.m. at booth 409.

Beyond the necessities of energy efficiency and safety, there are always the cool new toys for convenience and entertainment. But even infotainment and telematics, the subject of this issue's cover feature, are moving toward “green” territory, as navigation systems begin to calculate the most fuel-efficient routes. Great stuff!

We didn't kill the electric car; electric vehicle technology is far from dead.”

I look forward to seeing you at Convergence! If you've got a hot technology you'd like to have featured in Auto Electronics magazine or on our group's online video program, Engineering TV (engineeringtv.com), shoot me an email at mark.david@penton.com.

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