Modern cars are intelligent high tech systems. There are over 60 processors on board a car nowadays, for control, supervision, interaction, navigation and communication. A new top class car has 100 million lines of software code, the Boeing 787 only 6.5. With the transition towards new propulsion and vehicle drive and IT systems the automotive industry is rapidly changing its founding base technologies and required disciplines. Examples of new developments are self-parking, drive-by-wire and autonomous vehicles, plug-in electrical vehicles and hybrids, fast growing (wireless) communication requirements and possibilities and emerging smart mobility concepts (‘connected cars’). Hence, more electronics, software and IT are needed; and a bit less mechanical engineering. With the human driver in the loop! An example of this paradigm shift is provided by Tesla Motors, see also “is Tesla the new Apple?“. See the review Tesla rethinks the automobile by CNET. An interesting article is also “This car runs on code“. Here you can see how it works to get a software update for your car!
Because of these developments, we added the new system oriented bachelor program Automotive as a new major of the Bachelor College of Eindhoven University of Technology, in addition to our existing graduate program Automotive Systems. What are the great automotive challenges? What are requirements of the future automotive engineers? And why is the TU/e involved? This article will provide some answers.
TU/e Automotive Education
Since 2011 the TU/e offers a complete set of educational programs on automotive: the new bachelor Automotive, the existing minor Automotive Systems and master Automotive Technology and the new post master Automotive Systems Design.
Bachelor Automotive. An important step forward in theme oriented research and education for Automotive is the start of the new bachelor (major) program Automotive, September 2011, which will be uniquely positioned as a major within the bachelor college, and formally a track within the Electrical Engineering bachelor degree. Six departments are involved. Being part of the recently announced TU/e Strategic Area Smart Mobility, which is headed by dr. Carlo van de Weijer (TomTom), the theme oriented Automotive bachelor includes contributions from Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and IT related technologies, combined with human factors and engineering design. It is rather unique in Europe: in Stockholm and Turin Automotive bachelor programs exist, also at an academic level. However, here we will focus on systems thinking and multi-disciplinarity, so as to prepare the young engineers for a future in the high tech sector. The program contains general courses in the first year, like mathematics, system theory, networks andelectrical components, which will be given together with the bachelor Electrical Engineering students, and automotive specific courses and projects, like automotive components and powertrains. We also want to educate the societal automotive trends and developments, including smart mobility. Human factors will also have a prominent role in the programme, in order to confront the automotive students with the increasingly important role with which humans are in the loop of technology usage (‘human centered mobility’).
The students will work on issues like emissions reduction, electric vehicles, smart safety, mobility solutions and ‘connected cars’. The university is aiming for an inflow of 100 students for the new automotive program.
Moreover, the Dutch automotive industry is in great favor of this new and unique curriculum, and is participating actively with teachers and problem statements in the programme. For instance, part of the programme will focus on commercial vehicles (i.e. trucks and buses), where lectures will be given by DAF employees. In the first year, various visits will be organized to Automotive industries and to the High Tech Automotive Campus, in Helmond.
In the second and third year the student can select specialisations from the supporting departments. For the whole bachelor, we also see a prominent role for the University Racing Team Eindhoven (URE), with the development of their full electric racing car. Recently, more TU/e teams were started, mostly concentrating on sustainable power trains.
After completion of the bachelor, the students can successfully start with the master Automotive Technology.
Minor Automotive Systems. This minor started as Automotive Electronics, now called Automotive Systems, and is a TU/e wide minor, designed especially for all other students who like modern vehicle technology. The minor has a focus on automotive engineering and technologies. It is hosted by the Electrical Engineering department and includes contributions from other departments as well. The minor gives a nice preparation for all non-automotive students for the master Automotive Technology.
Master Automotive Technology. The master was the first initiative of all new automotive related educational programs at the TU/e. It was motivated by the innovation program High Tech Automotive Systems (HTAS), which clearly stated there is a need for more automotive engineers to support the growth of the Dutch Automotive sector, as well as a need for a new generation of engineers: those who can cope with the technology paradigm shift presently occurring within the Automotive industries. From component towards systems thinking, from gears to software and IT. This has been the motivator for the birth of the new and for the Netherlands unique Master of Science Automotive Technology (AT) in 2008. This master, although hosted by the department of Mechanical Engineering, is a TU/e wide master, with the involvement of six departments and over 14 research groups. The master is now in its fourth year and steadily growing with a good attraction of (inter)national students. To encourage the multi-disciplinarity, the master students follow in the first semester eight obligatory courses from all participating departments, ranging from vehicle dynamics and powertrains to human factors in automotive and real time architectures. On top of this, a system oriented design project also supports the eduation of the students to overcome mono-disciplinary pitfalls. After this first semester, the students specialise in one of the research directions involved.
PDEng Automotive Systems Design. Recently a decision was made to complement the master at the top side with a Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng) study for designers, called the Automotive Systems Design PDEng, as part of the SAI institute. The first module of this new two year post master study is on systems engineering as a basic tooling for the modern automotive engineer. With the master and the various automotive PhD projects, this forms the Graduate Program Automotive Systems, linking education to our research activities on Automotive.
TU/e Automotive Research
Within the TU/e we have a long tradition in automotive research, especially within the mechanical engineering department. Already in the seventies the TU/e build a Volkswagen with electric propulsion and a flywheel. We were also one of the first winners of the Shell Eco challenge in the eighties. Our research on diesel engines and on variable transmissions is known worldwide for already more than two decades.
We decided in 2003,within the department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) to make Automotive as a theme stretched over various groups emphasizing that rapid developments of technology can be beneficial for various application areas, i.e. a research group can work on robotics as well as on vehicle control, thereby having the benefit of synergy. At the same time more activities were carried out at the department of Electrical Engineering with control and electro-mechanics for automotive, and battery research at Chemical Technology. The start was also made with setting up, together with the Dutch automotive industries (FHA: Federation Holland Automotive), a brand new innovation programme: High Tech Automotive Systems (HTAS). At the same time, TNO Automotive relocated its labs (over 100 people) from Delft towards the Helmond Campus, where the company PD&E/Benteler also was present as an Automotive Engineering consultancy firm. This campus soon became the Dutch attractor of Holland Automotive, and is now called the High Tech Automotive Campus, and being part of AutomotiveNL.
Because of the innovation programme HTAS, many research projects were initiated between industry and the TU/e, also including the departments Industrial Design, Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, and Computer Science. This development was recently accelerated by the economic crisis and some knowledge worker projects like the one on hybrid trucks with DAF and the SPITS project on connected vehicles and smart roads. The HTAS program was clear in its ambition: to boost the Dutch Automotive industry from 12 B€/year turnover to 15 B€/year. Its it now part of the TopArea High Tech Systems and Materials. The vision is to focus on key technologies/challenges: efficient vehicles and connected cars. Only by choosing a focus it is possible to get mass and make a difference. For the new roadmap this focus is on smart and intelligent systems to make hybrid trucks and vehicles, clean combustions, smart vehicle dynamics, and cooperative driving using wireless and reliable communication car2car and car2infra, in order to solve the mobility problem.
Interestingly, part of the innovation programme Automotive is devoted to one of the key things in high tech innovation: people. Education was and is seen as one of the key enablers to be productive as a nation and attractive for foreign companies to join the Brainport family.
Within the automotive industry the trend is towards more added value by the supplier chain of industries, which makes it clear that the Netherlands indeed play an increasingly important role for the global automotive industries. Brainport Automotive is at the dawn of this and other new automotive developments, with increasingly more automotive related R&D concentrating in the region. Examples of high-tech automotive hits in Brainport include:
NXP produces integrated circuits and processors for cars, among other things. It is quite a significant portion of the company’s annual income. That’s why NXP considers automotive a major growth market.
With an annual turnover of a couple of billion Euros, DAF Paccar is now the second largest truck supplier in Europe. The economic crisis prompted reduced production but this has begun to recover now, the company produces 200 trucks a day. Like cars, trucks also contain increasingly more modern technology, like the modern diesel engine, which is absolutely a high-tech component. DAF makes unprecedented clean diesel engines: the air that comes out is almost cleaner than the air that goes in! This does involve a lot of software-based monitoring and control technology. There is also a hybrid truck in production that combines diesel and electric power.
The TomTom R&D department in Eindhoven is bursting at the seams. Why this is? Because of TomTom’s position as a supplier of navigation for in-car systems. The department needs knowledge workers who have a real understanding of ‘automotive specs’, predominantly to enable navigation to properly connect to other information systems to enable, for instance, road-user pricing possible.
This is just a small selection of the Brainport companies in the automotive field and is by no means a disservice to the other companies. Important others are VDL and APTS, manufacturers of hybrid buses and coaches, and Bosch Transmissions that sells over four million variable transmission units in Asia each year. In addition, all the suppliers should be mentioned that help their clients innovate in the automotive sector, and TNOAutomotive and Benteler with their test facilities at the High Tech Automotive Campus in Helmond.
The automotive sector is rapidly changing. It is (one of) the largest industries worldwide, and has huge challenges to provide good innovation options for a smart and sustainable world. With our Brainport knowledge on mechatronics, embedded systems, microtechnology and high tech systems design, we are positioned at the forefront of technologies. As TU/e we are proud to be part of this!