For its first 29 years, the Convergence show has served as a forum for automotive and electronics engineers to come together—to converge—on solutions to the challenges in the automotive industry. Convergence 2004, the 30th anniversary event, recognizes how these endeavors have changed the industry. The show will be held in Detroit, Mich., Oct. 18-20.
The theme, "Vehicle Electronics to Digital Mobility: The Next Generation of Convergence," represents how next-generation electronic and mechatronic systems will replace mechanical systems. Digital mobility means using digital data processing to control all vehicle attributes and functions, including ride control, the power train, and navigation. It also means using sophisticated, digital, fast, closed-loop controlled signals to replace analog, slow, open-loop processing.
This is a big change from industry practices. In the past, contributions from electronics designers were primarily related to independent components or subsystems, converting mechanical or hydraulic subsystems to electronic control. That conversion is complete on many cars, say the Convergence 2004 sponsors. Moreover, the original analog controls have been converted to primarily digital microprocessor-based controls.
The next step, the sponsors say, is to interconnect all these systems into one interactive vehicle system. With all this capability, the next generation of convergence will move toward intelligent systems and communication networks—that is, digital mobility.
"The success of convergence has helped the auto industry better leverage technology's possibilities," explains Gerhard Schmidt, Convergence 2004 chair. "But now, electronic product innovation curves have shortened, and vehicle life expectations have lengthened. To continue the benefits of convergence and meet consumer demand, both industries must move to reconcile these diverging trends."
This year's event features 86 white papers, 15 technical sessions, three interactive panel discussions, six keynote speakers from leading companies, and more than 185 exhibits by automotive and electronics companies. Three of the paper sessions in particular target the difficult challenge of seamlessly integrating the different vehicle and electronic product life cycles.
"Supply-Chain Management in a Digital World" (session 3) describes how the supply chain must adapt to rapid changes in digital electronics. "Systems Architecture" (session 7) examines automotive software management through standards, methods, processes, support tools, and life cycles. And, "Rate of Change in Electronics vs. Other Industries" (session 15) looks at how the two industries can transfer best practices and reconcile two vastly different rates of change.