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Advanced Electronics Propelling EV Adoption

Oct. 21, 2021
While electric-vehicle advances continue, concerns about infrastructure and chip supply need to be overcome to kick-start widespread adoption.

The short answer is never say never, but it will be quite some time before drivers (especially those who enjoy it) are willing to give up the wheel. This was a topic of conversation during one of Altair’s panels during its three-day Future.Industry event this week.

One of the painful transitions to an electric-vehicle-centric world is a lack of charging infrastructure, Robert Llewellyn, actor and host of The Fully Charged EV Show, pointed out. He provided an example in which a charging station housed 14 Tesla superchargers, but now there are additional charging stations for all other EVs.

“It is getting better,” he said. “It used to be diabolically, appallingly bad.”

We don’t have to build up everything from scratch, though. Building innovation on top of innovation and using technologies already present is crucial.

“The pieces were there, even before the electric vehicles were really getting more popular,” said Brett Chouinard, CTO of Altair. “For instance, we have an electric grid… of course, they still drive on roads, so those infrastructures are still there. And, of course, electric motors are not a new development—electric motors have been around for longer than IC engines.”

As with most electronics, processors are crucial for operation. Microchip shortage aside, as EV development strengthens, so does the need for CPUs. Intel, one of the best-known chip manufacturers, announced its IDM 2.0 plan in which it will open up its manufacturing and invest billions into new fabs.

“The world demand for microprocessors, if you will, has just skyrocketed. They cannot make enough of them,” said Jim Jeffers, Senior Principal Engineer, Senior Director, Advanced Rendering and Visualization, Intel.

Autonomous Vehicles

Many cars on the road today have some autonomous functionality, but is the industry heading toward fully autonomous EVs? Probably not any time soon. Car enthusiasts enjoy the experience of driving too much to give up the steering wheel.

The implications for fully autonomous vehicles reach across several industries. For example, LiDAR cameras are needed to capture information for internal communications. Then, of course, we’re teetering into the realm of data security. We also have the requirement of simulation and testing.

“I do like the concept of partial autonomy,” said Jeffers. A partially autonomous vehicle would allow the driver to be in control when he/she wants.

Partial autonomy or not, robust testing and simulation also are needed for countless scenarios involving the autonomous vehicle.

“Safety is an energy management problem,” said Chouinard. “Stop the energy from going into the human in the car.”

One way to optimize safety would be to implement energy-absorbing safety devices, like airbags. Another would be to avoid an impact altogether.

With everything from established carmakers to startups to companies like Apple (that just filed two patents for self-driving vehicles), what type of companies will come out on top? Chouinard noted that the companies benefiting most now might not be the top players in a decade. Software must become more computational, and charging infrastructure must continue to improve.

Nonetheless, the future of transportation looks a lot more electric.

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