Auto Electronics

Convergence 2008: “Vehicle Electronics Converging on Real Customer Needs

Complex user interfaces have little value for meeting real customer needs, according to Andreas Schell, Chrysler's top electronics executive. Schell, who chairs the Convergence conference at Cobo Center in Detroit Oct. 20-22, sees a value proposition in easy-to-use features that minimize driver distraction.

The theme for Convergence 2008 is “Vehicle Electronics Converging on Real Customer Needs.”

The value proposition of meeting real customer needs will be met by how many features are implemented, and not necessarily by how many features a car contains, according to Schell. “Complex user interfaces render features unattainable and of little real value,” he said. “Today's market-savvy customer expects features that are intuitive and easy to use while minimizing driver distraction. Emphasis on ease of use will require a more thoughtfully designed user interface than previously imagined. This is where the competitive advantage lives.”

The biennial Convergence conference is expected to attract some 8,000 automotive electronics industry participants. More than 130 firms will have products on display.

Despite the current automotive industry doldrums, “Convergence is still the most important platform to showcase automotive electronic products,” said Roland Franz, manager of product marketing at Hella Inc. USA. “Everyone is desperate for information,” including OEM design engineers under pressure to improve fuel economy and component suppliers searching for another product niche. In addition to its LED lighting products, Hella will tout a battery sensor, and controllers for fuel and battery pumps. Those devices are designed to lighten the load on a vehicle's electrical system.

Ricardo, Inc. is readying Auto-FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis) software as well as a next-generation rapid prototyping tool that's based on dual Infineon TriCore DSP/microcontrollers. John Jahshan, chief engineer in Ricardo's Control and Electronics Product Group Organization, said the new controller will be significantly faster than its current RP offering, rCube.

Jahshan said Ricardo will also brief Convergence attendees on its collaboration with 3D mapping specialist Intermap Technologies. “We're meshing Intermap's 3D map data to feed into our powertrain systems,” he said. “We can use this data to optimize battery charging or transmission shifting depending on whether the road ahead is sloping uphill or downhill.”

Continental plans to show a variety of interior, powertrain & chassis, and safety products in its booth.

On the semiconductor side, Freescale Semiconductor will demo the Mad Mac concept car it showed at the Freescale Technology Forum. The vehicle, which stresses function more than form, features a single-chip engine controller; a body control module that drives a LIN bus; a nifty instrument panel; infotainment, including surround-sound, and a cupholder, among other interior elements, enhanced with mood lighting.

Fujitsu Microelectronics America will highlight FlexRay, IDB1394, and graphic display controllers in its booth, integrating controllers into a vehicle cockpit and a headrest monitor. The firm will show an MCU-based FlexRay-CAN gateway for controlling motor functions, a LED panel, and on/off alarm.

NEC Electronics will focus on products for vision-based safety, infotainment, connectivity, and AUTOSAR-enabled development.

Among other presentations and panel discussions, industry guru Paul Hansen has assembled representatives from GM, Ford, Chrysler, BMW, and Honda for “Car Makers Speak.” GM's Larry Burns will chair a session on connected vehicles, and Continental's Peter Rieth will talk about telematics.

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