Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Power distribution solutions towards more efficiency

CESA 2012 abstract

The well established 12V automotive power distribution system is facing some major changes. The main drivers for these changes are better energy efficiency and CO2-reduction. 12V Start-stop and 48V Mild-Hybrid solutions are seen as enablers for better efficiency.
With the innovative 12V start-stop functions, there are two new upcoming challenges to be solved, powernet stabilization and increased activation cycles.
The presentation will show semiconductor solutions for powernet stabilization, like dual battery switches, as well as solutions for replacing mechanical relays. Special interest is here also given to electronic fuse function, weight reduction by improved wire harness and a more flexible power distribution partitioning, as well as a reduction of electric power losses.
Finally the presentation will cover the 48V powernet requirements for semiconductors in Mild-Hybrid systems. Different system architectures will be discussed with their specific application needs and first 48V semiconductor families like MOSFETs, driver ICs, Voltage regulators and transceiver devices will be proposed.

By Dr. Alfons Graf, Principal System Architect for Body Electronic at Infineon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trends and Innovations in Safety Domain Architecture

CESA 2012 abstract
Since years the demand for Driver Assistant Systems is continuously growing. Forward looking camera and radar applications are gaining popularity. Not only in the luxury car segment, but also in mid end car segments and migrating further into low end cars. In addition the merge of active and passive safety applications towards cognitive safety is progressing rapidly, supported by upcoming changes in the safety rating of cars. Additional radar and camera sensors are going to be equipped around the car for side and rear looking applications migrating towards 360 degree environmental sensing. Taking advanced development programs at vehicle manufacturer into consideration first semi autonomous driving applications can be expected within this decade.
All these trends will lead to a change in the safety electronic architecture.

More and more sensor data need to be processed, data fusion has to be done on a much higher level and software functions to align and arbitrate chassis actuators need to be integrated. Furthermore, vehicle manufacturer have identified DAS function software as an important vehicle brand related selling point and started to develop this SW on their own, which has to be integrated by tier 1 supplier as black box or gray box SW.
Beside these new electronic systems, which are entering the car, we will see a lot of new technologies enabling the way towards cognitive safety. Safety systems are going to have open, Autosar based SW architectures according to ISO26262, need to support various network communications like CAN, FlexRay and in the next step Ethernet and have to provide very flexible and scalable micro processor architecture.
While flexibility and scalability do have in general an impact on the cost of the electronic systems - standard safety systems with high fitment rates are meanwhile much cost driven - a simple integration of the above mentioned functions and technologies would lead to a not acceptable cost burden in standard systems. Safety domain controller which acts as flexible, open integration hubs being additionally equipped to the car as optional electronic systems, hosting DAS or vehicle dynamic functions are ideal solutions to follow the rapidly changing market as long as above mentioned market requirements are linked to fitment rates below 30-40%. With such a controller the functions can be integrated and added very easily by allowing the standard electronic systems to stay cost optimized. TRW has developed a safety domain controller which enables the integration of a number of chassis, safety and DAS control functions. Using open, ISO262626 compliant Autosar architecture, the Saftey Domain ECU (SDE) has the flexibility to include software from vehicle manufacturers and third party suppliers and its first generation is scheduled for launch in 2013.
For its second generation SDE, TRW is exploring the application and benefits of Ethernet as a network technology – offering considerably higher data throughput speeds than current communication protocols.

By Dr. Hans-Gerd Krekels, Global Director Technology Strategy & Core Electronics, TRW Automotive

The Second Coming of Saab

Saab PhoeniX Concept Car

People love a good comeback story, the kind where a person overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles, and Saab right now might be shaping up to be that kind of a story. Many people decided the brand was deader than dead three years ago when talk of bankruptcy and winding down the brand  was first brought up by General Motors management. After languishing for a while, the Swedish automotive brand finally seemed to succumb to the many factors that caused its demise. Many kind eulogies were written for the brand and then everyone seemed to move on.

But like a phoenix, (or maybe a zombie, depending on how things turn out) Saab refused to stay dead for very long. Now it promises to rise from the ashes of the company so many wept over, hopefully stronger and ready to thrive in the modern automotive world.

Saab PhoeniX Concept

At first, plans were to relaunch the brand with only EVs (electric vehicles). That plan was an ambitious one, one that seems to have been placed on hold. Rather than let consumers continue to think that the Saab brand is dead, the company will release a new generation of the iconic 9-3 sports sedan, but it will be gasoline-powered like in the past. Rumor has it that this new 9-3 will be based on the architecture of Saab's PhoeniX concept (but sadly the scissor doors probably won't make the cut--pun intended). In the next few years, expect to see electric Saab models rolling down a road near you.

How is it that Saab has been brought back from death? Despite what most people think, when a company goes bankrupt and closes that doesn't mean the products are dead forever. If that were the case, Jeep would have been history a long time ago. The Swedish company National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (or NEVS) is partially responsible for this reboot. The company is owned by National Modern Energy Holdings, which is based in Hong Kong. A significant portion of the company is also owned by some private Japanese citizens, with the alliance surviving the current tension between the governments of China and Japan.

Saab PhoeniX Concept

China has been weighing in on electric car technology with a mandate for quite a few electric cars on the country's roads in the near future. This has helped fuel an interest in bringing more EVs to China. The US so far is the largest EV market in the world, so expect to see quite a few of these EV Saabs coming to America in the near future as well. I would imagine a fair amount of the new 9-3s will be landing on American shores as well, considering the US was a vital market for Saab back in the day. Still, with NEVS being based in China, and with the country's growing appetite for cars, Saab should be expecting to see a huge upswing in growth in China (just like Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo are all experiencing).

Of course, everything is up in the air right now. Relaunching a car brand is not an overnight process, especially with part supply chains, readying factories, negotiating with assembly workers, training, testing, etc. I'm sure the public's response to this news will play a factor in deciding if Saab is back next year, so let's all make sure to let NEVS know there's still a viable market for a combustion engine 9-3!

Saab PhoeniX Concept Wheel - I love how it looks kind of like a turbine!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Developing embedded user experiences - challenges and success factors in automotive environment.

CESA 2012 abstract

Automotive product development is based on proven processes and development time that allows carmakers to respond to drivers needs in regards to quality, feature availability and look and feel of the device in the car.
When talking about user experience, driver’s expectations are influenced by consumer electronic devices, from interaction point of view (speech and/or gesture recognition) as well as content (graphic attractiveness, apps). Drivers are expecting the same seamless, simple, easy to use phone and tablet features in their car, while still requiring automotive quality in term of system stability, low driver distraction and updateability during automotive life-time.
With over a decade of experience in developing multimodal HMI, EB GUIDE – industry recognized HMI development products suite and speech dialog platform - has been proved reliable in more than a million vehicles on the road and in the upcoming year more vehicles will come to market using the EB GUIDE HMI technology.
During the presentation, you will learn about market trends in HMI, the market interest for a modelbased approach, quick UI simulation for user-acceptance evaluation, how to easily enable early and agile development, as well as integrating latest technologies to handle gesture/speech recognition and graphics challenges into the vehicle.

By Bruno Abou, director Elektrobit France SAS

The Joys of Driving a Minivan!

I am a car guy, but I'm also practical and I'm not rich. I also have several kids (which is partially why I'm not rich) to transport safely and comfortably around town and on long trips. Because of my life situation I have found myself doing what I swore I would never, ever do: I bought a minivan.

What's so bad about owning a minivan? Many people consider minivans to be a scourge on the road. I've noticed the most violent reactions against minivans and those who drive them come from women. Perhaps these women view minivans as an undue form of female bondage, like the bra-burning flower children of the 1960s? I once had a woman explain to me that driving a minivan is "sacrificing your sexuality for your children." I had no idea I drove my sexuality around on the road, but of course the little guys who drive huge trucks help confirm that at least some people do. How sad.

I really like SUVs for a number of reasons: they are excellent in snow, SUVs are good for camping and other outdoor activities and some can actually be fun to drive (while others constantly feel like they're going to tip over). But there is one major problem with 95% of the SUVs on the market today: if they have a third row, its large enough to transport a house cat or maybe a beagle and that's about it. Don't believe me? Go try to sit in the third row of a Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90, Acura MDX or even a Ford Explorer. If you're tall like me, you won't even fit. To add insult to injury, with the third row up the vehicle's cargo area is completely annihilated. So that means if the family goes shopping together, everyone has to hold the store bags on their laps. Road trips are accomplished with everyone holding the luggage or using it as wonderful in-vehicle ottomans, or by loading everything onto the roof and increasing the possibility the vehicle will rollover at freeway speeds. Car makers could at least expand the hip room on the second row of these SUVs, allowing parents to place three car seats or boosters side-by-side and still close the doors and use the three shoulder belts.  

Minivans in general offer more cargo and passenger space than SUVs

Minivans, for the most part, have ample space on all three rows, as well as a surprising amount of cargo space behind the third row. Image be damned, having space for everyone and everything makes life bearable! Kids also have an easy time getting into and out of minivans, since they have a low step-in height and wide sliding doors. Kids have trouble with the large, heavy doors found on SUVs, which means they're more likely to hit other vehicles, metal poles, etc with them.

As gas prices continue to climb, minivans offer a more fuel-efficient way to transport a large group of people. In general, their tires and other consumables cost less. They are a more budget-friendly way to transport around your family. So many people have SUVs that cost an arm and a leg to maintain, and yet they never tap into the vehicle's off-road capabilities. If that's not conspicuous consumption, then I'm not sure what is. 

Ultimately I feel like I'm villainized by other drivers on the road because I chose a vehicle that makes sense. I had been conditioned to think that minivan drivers were some sort of a scourge, but my thinking has now changed by necessity. If more people would give minivans a try, they might realize that their kids don't need to eat their knees in an SUV's crammed third row. My experience is that the more comfortable kids are in a vehicle, in general the better behaved they are in that vehicle. I enjoy driving down the road without crying and fighting, which is hardly a scourge but instead is a huge blessing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Join the CESA Congress VIP Business Tour

In partnership with the SIA, the Paris Region Economic Development Agency is organising the CESA Congress VIP Business Tour of 3 of the Paris region's most innovative locations for new mobility. The tour is scheduled on Monday, December 3rd.
Here is the agenda :
- 11.30 am to 1 pm : Welcome lunch at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport.
- 2 pm to 3.15 pm : Visit of the Autolib operational centre.
Autolib is the first public-private service plan with more than 1,700 electric vehicles to be developed in a large European metropolis. It enables Paris Region inhabitants to rent electric cars for a few hours from interactive terminals located in the streets. Thanks to the VIP Business Tour, you will have the unique opportunity to visit Autolib's hub in Vaucresson and to experiment the electric Blue cars !
- 3.45 pm to 4.45 pm : Visit of the command post of the recently completed A86 motorway tunnel.
This location demonstrates how an information technology software system is used to manage France’s largest road tunnel.
- 5.15 pm to 6.15 pm: Discover the INRIA Research Centre in Rocquencourt. INRIA is a public research organization, dedicated to science and digital technologies. Its experts will present you their research on the autonomous vehicle with demonstrations of autonomous driving cars.
- 7.30 pm: Evening buffet with the CESA operational committee in central Paris.

Link :

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Robot Cars Are Invading!

I grew up watching the Transformers (as well as the hopelessly inferior GoBots) and so from an early age I have a positive association with robot cars. Night Rider was also part of my ultra-healthy diet of mindless television, which also helped prepare me for the future of automobiles.

Yes, that's right folks, the future of automobiles will be robot cars. Like it or not, states like California are helping usher in a new era in motoring (as my friends across the pond like to say) where the human behind the wheel is not the only one driving the car. 

What baffles me is the massive opposition to robot cars. There are throngs of people who are upset, saying robot cars are dangerous (these people watched the Terminator and the Matrix a little too much), that they take away our freedoms and that robot cars will create the ever-dread "nanny state" I keep hearing about. If you don't believe that robot cars are a hot-button issue, check out this real (I swear it is real) political ad from Florida:

Back in the day windshields were called "not commercially viable" by people who irrationally were fighting any kind of change. Considering how many deaths and serious injuries are caused by car accidents, and how many people who want to do everything but drive when they're behind the wheel, I think the benefits of autonomous cars are immense. How many times have you been in a near car accident that was due to another person talking or texting on their phone, or doing something else that completely distracted them? A robot car would prevent the damage to property and loss of life that comes from car accidents (which are altogether too common). In fact, according to the United States CDC, the number one killer of teens in the US is car accidents! 

Of course, not all autonomous car tech is created equal, so the debate should really be about what is the best way of going about it.Having a system where all the cars are controlled by a central group of servers can be a recipe for disaster, since one glitch could cause thousands of cars to drive out of control, leading to catastrophic car accidents. Instead, tech like Google's self driving cars is far better, since a glitch would only affect one or just some of the cars on the road. 

To those who bristle at the thought of a computer driving a car, since computers won't be as careful, consider that humans have proven to be quite careless behind the wheel. Most of these robot cars will allow drivers to take control at any time, so in the event of a malfunction the human driver can still maintain control. This could also mean that people could drive without using the robot aids, just like how you can turn the traction control system off on your car (and let your tires spin uselessly as a result). The point is people would have the robotic aids, just like how people have backup cameras and other technology that makes driving a car a safer and easier experience.

The thermal management of electrified vehicles

CESA abstract

When running on pure electric mode, electrified vehicles offer a very efficient energy conversion. Less than 3 kW in average is needed to drive an EV over an urban cruise. Consequently, the management of additional power demands of thermal functions, e.g. the cooling or the heating of the vehicle passenger cabin, or that of battery and power electronics, has a major impact on the overall vehicle power balance. A new system approach for thermal management, combining an innovative architecture, dedicated technologies and relevant control strategy, becomes decisive to offer a significant cruising range, secure the battery life time and also ensure quick engine response.
Within the scope of Vega/Thop, a cooperative project including six partners (Valeo, Renault, Saint Gobain Sekurit, Hutchinson, INSA/Cethil, LINC) funded by Ademe, a new thermal architecture was designed, prototyped and tested on benches and lab cars in order to assess the potential of such innovative thermal concept.

This paper outlines the main challenges and the outputs of this project:
- the review of thermal needs, with a focus on the passenger cabin requirements for comfort, and their associated impact on vehicle performances at system level;
- the way to drastically reduce the cabin thermal needs with same perceived comfort, combining cabin treatment, advanced air management and alternative comfort strategy;
- the setting up of a new thermal architecture that combines heat networking, recovery and storage capabilities, looking for synergies between thermal needs and heat losses so as to minimize consumption.
- the implementation of a heat pump to leverage “free” low temperature heat sources, such as ambient air or internal heat inertia and losses
- the benefit of a transient control strategy, in order to manage different operating modes and related “ramp up” or cycling phases, according to the vehicle usage profile.
As a conclusion, typical power savings compared to current serial EV will be presented on different scenarii, based on the results from tests campaigns and simulations analyses.

By Daniel Neveu (R&D program manager, Valeo Thermal Systems) and Osoko Shonda (Innovation Project Leader, Renault).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Are You What You Drive?

2013 Land Rover Range Rover

The old Detroit adage was "you are what you drive." Actually much of the automotive industry, not just American automakers, have drummed this into people's heads for decades. I have heard people use this phrase with glee (when they have a car they just love) as well as with disdain (when they have a car they would love to drive off a cliff). Is it really true?

There are many stereotypes revolving around people who drive different types of vehicles. I have owned a variety of vehicles, and always notice with a little twist of humor that people treat me differently depending on the car I drive. For example, when I had my little Volvo S40 (which for those of you who don't know is a compact Swedish sedan) I would regularly get cut off by the "big truck crowd" or guys driving full-size pickups. I even had one cut me off on the freeway, slam on his breaks and then gun it so a cloud of diesel exhaust spewed all over my car as he waved a finger out his window. After my car was in a little fender bender and then had to take a trip to the body shop, I was given a rental full-size pickup truck to drive around. I immediately noticed the other full-size pickups on the road treated me like royalty, but a new group started to target me: middle-aged women in economy cars! I kid you not, I would have women in Civics, Mazda Proteges, Corollas, etc ride up so close behind the truck I could barely see the roof of the car in my rearview mirror, meanwhile in my side mirror I could see them yelling and making faces at the back of the truck. What I couldn't believe was that if I had slammed on the breaks, these women would have been pulverized by a vehicle that weighed at least twice as much as theirs.

When I drove a Japanese SUV I had people in American SUVs try to show off all the time, and while driving my Saab I would have BMWs try to race me and Lexus drivers cut me off constantly. Driving a minivan now, I have the lovely joy of women (yes, pretty much just women and not men) treating me like I am the scourge of the earth and shouldn't be allowed on the roads. I could go on, but I think you get the point.I think it's pretty safe to say quite a few people have bought into the belief that the vehicle makes the person.

Does owning a Ford Raptor make you a more active person?

I would argue that a vehicle doesn't transform who you are. To an extent the vehicle does affect how you drive: I don't go nearly as fast in my current vehicle as I did in my Saab, and when I had an SUV I wouldn't hesitate to plow through deep water on the road. I would argue, though, that the person chooses the vehicle, and that different people gravitate to specific vehicles for a number of reasons. It's not always cut-and-dry like some try to pretend, but I do think that the type of vehicle you drive says a lot about you and the stage of life you're in.

Automotive industry marketers would agree with me. I often see automakers' profiles for buyers of different vehicle models. For example, once I saw Honda's for Accord drivers. I don't remember everything about the profile, but I do remember that they found the average Accord driver vacuums out his garage rather than sweeping it. While you can't say that everyone who drives X vehicle is exactly the same, you can say that most people who drive the same vehicle share some key traits. I do believe the list of similarities between drivers with the same vehicle grows tighter the more "niche" the vehicle is in the marketplace. For this reason, I think this is why there is such a strong Subaru culture or a similar group of people who drive Mazda Miatas. Meanwhile, you will find a less homogenous group of Camry drivers, although most Camry drivers do share some key traits (just not as many as Subaru Forrester drivers). 

I could also launch into a big, deep discussion about vehicle customization and what it says about people. I wrote up a 60+ page paper (complete with photos) for a college class on this very subject, and trust me I could write a 500+ page book on it. But we'll leave it for another day, and maybe even for a future book. 

Perhaps we should modify what we say about a car being an extension of a person. I guess we could always say "what you drive reflects who you are" but that just wouldn't be very catchy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Individual E-Mobility Solutions for Automotive and Off-Highway Applications – A System View by Bosch

CESA 2012 abstract
Only a couple of years ago there were many doubts on a possible implementation and realization of hybrid and electric vehicles as an alternative for vehicles with an ICE powertrain.
Today we are in the position to see this differently. “The future automotive powertrain will be electric” is a prognosis of Bosch. The conversion of the powertrain to be electric assisted or become all electric was pushed through significant development effort over the last couple of years.
Today we see the hybrid technology being used in many different platforms of almost any OEM and the first all electric vehicles are available from series production. But the electric powertrain is not only revolutionizing the automotive industry.
At Bosch Engineering we are getting more and more requests for hybrid and electric powertrain solutions for off-highway applications. This includes for example fork lift trucks, municipal multi-purpose carriers, and also marine applications. These applications could benefit from the system and sub-system development efforts for automotive solutions and from the mature and high quality of powertrain components.

For any application it is important to make sure, that the requirements and the duty cycle are well understood and that the system, sub-system and the components are very well fitted together for their individual usage. High efficiency plays an important role, especially for the electric powertrain, since energy storage systems are still very cost effective. High performance simulation tools are used to support the effort of finding an overall optimized solution. Safe and environmental friendly solutions are a must for Bosch. However cost, efficiency, function, weight and packaging are also important requirements. Often, the first system development solution found is not the best to meet all these criteria. Iterations have to be made using simulation tools and measurements in order to find out what is best for each individual system layout.
What has to be kept in mind: “The optimum of each subsystem and component is not necessarily the overall optimum of the entire system“.

By Heiko Weller, Bosch.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane Sandy vs Collector Cars

Ok, first it's Hurricane Sandy, not Super Storm Sandy. No matter how you slice it, it was still a hurricane that rocked the east coast of the U.S. in October. And the one thing that drives any car guy crazy is to see vehicular damage. We cringed at a photo floating around facebook that was also the cover shot of Automotive News magazine last week of a fleet of Ford Crown Victorias and a few Transit Connect taxis sitting in a lot flooded with water. Turns out they were brand new cars sitting at a Ford owned dealership in Manhattan. So it turns out not only were they Crown Vics, they were some of the LAST Crown Vics built.

From our friends over at Hemmings comes these photos snapped by a reader of two Aston Martins that weren't so lucky last month. Makes you want to cry.

See all the photos here.

Source & Photos: Hemmings Blog

Sunday, November 11, 2012

High performance magnets: which properties? which prospects?

CESA 2012 abstract
High performance permanent magnets are a vital component of today’s clean energy technologies (e.g. hybrid vehicles, wind turbines) as well as many consumer appliances and accessories. The recent pricing pressure on the raw materials of rare earth based magnets, owing to the near monopoly of Chinese production of rare earth metals, has driven renewed interest in the study of permanent magnets.
In this paper we will recall the fundamentals of permanent magnetism, and outline the essential link between extrinsic properties and microstructure. We will describe the evolution in the properties of permanent magnets over the last century, linking the spectacular improvements achieved with the discovery of new phases and the development of improved processing.
We will explain the present dependence on the use of heavy rare earth elements such as Dy and Tb, in the production of Nd-Fe-B based magnets suitable for operation at the relatively high working temperatures of the motors and generators used in clean energy conversion (below 180°C).
We will discuss prospects for the development of heavy rare earth free Nd-Fe-B magnets, based on recent results from literature, and our own work on model thick film structures.
Finally, we will outline expected future developments of both rare earth containing and rare earth free high performance permanent magnets.

By Dr. Nora Dempsey, CNRS Grenoble.

Don't Be a Winter Driver Idiot

Even an all-wheel-drive car, like this Subaru Impreza STI, can lose control in slick winter conditions if not driven carefully.

During the past weekend the first big winter storm just hit where I live, and of course with the snow covering the roads the idiot behavior has spread around far and wide. Time after time I saw people doing the exact things they shouldn't have been doing on the road considering the slippery conditions and poor visibility. I also overheard people talking to others about winter driving habits that are just plain dangerous like they were no big deal. These people are going to wonder what happened when they suddenly find themselves pinned against an eighteen wheeler or upside down in a ditch full of icy water--but by then it might be too late.

In the spirit of the idiot winter driving skills I have recently witnessed, here is a helpful list that can aid anyone to not drive like a complete idiot in the snow:

1. Clear the snow off your car. I see this one constantly and there's just no excuse for it. People leave several inches of snow on their car's roof or the hood, thinking it will just blow off as they drive. The problem is the snow on your hood will blow onto your windshield, creating a tiny blizzard for just you to drive in, making it hard for you to see anything in front of your car. The snow on your car's roof can suddenly slide onto your windshield, completely blocking your view. Don't think your windshield wipers can move several pounds of wet snow, meaning you'll have to pull over (without being able to see in front of you) and clear the snow off your windshield. Maybe you can stick your head out the window like Ace Ventura in the meantime so you can actually see where you're going. Even more unbelievable to me, I regularly see people who don't even bother to clear the snow off their side and rear windows. Every vehicle that is driven where snow falls or ice forms on windows should have an ice scraper and snow brush in it, since it is a tool that is absolutely essential for safe winter driving.

This is how you'd have to drive with a windshield covered by snow.

2. Don't speed. When the roads are slick with snow and ice, it will take longer for you to stop. I know a lot of people think they're Ken Block or something, but they're not and they shouldn't try to drive like him. If you're speeding in snowy conditions, you're even more likely to slide out of control and get into a wreck. Speeding because you're late can actually make you even more late, since a wreck will undoubtedly chew up a good portion of your day (not to mention reward you with a pleasant ambulance ride if you're really lucky). Another thing: just because your vehicle has all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive doesn't mean you can speed without consequence. I've owned several vehicles where all four wheels receive power from the transmission (translation: both all-wheel and four-wheel-drive) and I always drive carefully in the snow despite the extra handling ability of the vehicle. I've driven through nasty storms in a little front-wheel-drive vehicle, where the sides of the road is literally littered with SUVs and pickup trucks that slid off because the drivers were going way too fast for the conditions. Instead of speeding, leave early and give yourself plenty of time to drive through a winter storm. Everyone else on the road will thank you for not speeding.

3. Stop tailgating. You shouldn't tailgate or follow the car in front of your too closely--it's a rude habit that could lead to your car becoming several inches shorter in a hurry. In slick road conditions, such as during a winter storm, you should be especially careful of tailgating. If you constantly find yourself slamming on the brakes hard when the driver in front of you stops, you are following too closely and need to leave more space between your car and the car in front.

4. Steer into the slide. It's natural for a driver to want to steer in the opposite direction the car is sliding. The thing is steering away from a slide on an icy, snowy road actually makes the car slide even more. By steering into the slide, or turning the wheel the way the car is sliding, you will actually stop the slide dead in its tracks (unless you are on an incredibly slippery road--then nothing will save you).

5. Maintain your tires. Most drivers don't realize it, but your tires are arguably the single most important piece of safety equipment on your car. The tires affect not only how your car handles, as well as how long it takes it to stop. Balding tires will cause your car to easily slide on slick roads. Not inflating your tires properly also reduces your tires' gripping ability, which in turn can cause your car to slide around on the slick roads. Paying close attention to your tires on a regular basis is the best policy.

6. Keep your fuel levels up. The old rule of thumb I've heard is to keep your fuel levels above the halfway mark during the winter months. If you get caught in a bad snow storm, it will take you much longer to get to your destination, which means you need more fuel to get there. Using four-wheel-drive on a vehicle also chews up additional fuel. If the storm is bad enough, you could become stranded on the road until help arrives. You will need extra fuel to run your car's heater while you wait for help, otherwise you might be sitting in a hospital for hypothermia treatments after your rescue.

7. Check your fluids often.The cold winter temperatures can do funny things with the fluid levels in your car. Low coolant levels causes your car's heaters to not operate correctly, not to mention negatively affect your engine's performance. Many people don't think to check their windshield washer fluid level, but when you have salt spraying on your windows, having enough washer fluid can mean the difference between being able to see out your windshield and not. There's nothing like a streaky windshield to help you crash into another car or an inanimate object.

8. Practice somewhere safe. The best thing I did as a young driver was I practiced driving in the snow until I had snow driving down. When snow would hit the ground I would go to a large parking lot at a nearby church where there were no other cars or anything else to hit. I would drive the car around, practicing my winter driving skills for hours. I would even intentionally put my car into a slide and spin out so I could feel what it was like and practice how to get out of those bad situations. I would also practice starting gradually so my tires wouldn't spin coming out of a dead stop. If you're nervous to drive in the snow, this is the best way to gain some snow driving experience without having to worry about getting into a wreck on the road.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The exhibition almost completed at CESA 2012

CESA 2012 will also be the opportunity to showcase the know how of french and european companies, in the field of electronics.

Here is the list :

Advancy, Applus IDIADA, Bertrandt, Continental, dSPACE, ESG Group, Henkel, IPG, MathWorks, Methodpark, NXP Semiconductors, Robert Bosch, STMicroelectronics, TE Connectivity and Vector.

Last but not least - Advantage Austria will be there too with high tech companies.
If you want to be there too, please hurry : there is only one booth left.

PSA Peugeot Citro├źn and Renault will present outside demo vehicles.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Suzuki files for Chapter 11 protection, no more U.S. car sales

What can I say. I saw this train wreck happening 2 years ago. American Suzuki Motor Corporation announced late this afternoon that it was filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to their press release, this is being done in order to realign the company to focus more towards their motorcycle, ATV, and marine operations.

As part of the wind down operations, ASMC will discontinue all U.S. automobile sales. However, unlike Saab's bankruptcy, all warranties will be honored for owners. Suzuki, states that "low sales volumes, a limited number of models in its line-up, unfavorable foreign exchange rates, the high costs associated with growing and maintaining an automotive distribution system in the continental U.S. and the disproportionally high and increasing costs associated with stringent state and federal regulatory requirements unique to the U.S. market." as the reasoning behind their decisions. I am curious as to why it has taken them this long to reach that decision as their sales performance has been slipping for the last several years. Their marketing was at times puzzling, comparing the Kizashi against cars like the Mercedes C class and Audi A4.

As we receive more details about Suzuki, we'll keep you updated here. 

Source: American Suzuki Motor Corporation.

Press release:

American Suzuki Motor Corporation ("ASMC") Announces Restructuring and Realignment to Focus on Motorcycles/ATV and Marine Divisions

ASMC to wind down and discontinue new automobile sales in continental U.S.
Consumers will be protected and all warranties will continue to be fully honored

BREA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- American Suzuki Motor Corporation ("ASMC" or "the Company"), the sole distributor in the continental United States of Suzuki Motor Corporation ("SMC") automobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and marine outboard engines, today announced that it plans to realign its business to focus on the long-term growth of its Motorcycles/ATV and Marine divisions. Following a thorough review of its current position and future opportunities in the U.S. automotive market, ASMC will wind down and discontinue new automobile sales in the continental U.S. The Company has determined the best path to achieve this realignment in an efficient and orderly manner is to restructure its operations under chapter 11. The case will be filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California in Santa Ana.

Consistent with ASMC's long history of standing by its products, owners of Suzuki automobiles will be protected. All warranties will continue to be fully honored and automobile parts and service will be provided to consumers without interruption through ASMC's parts and service dealer network.

ASMC remains firmly committed to Motorcycles/ATV and Marine products, and these divisions are competitively positioned in their respective markets, allowing for long-term growth as economic conditions improve. The realignment is intended to better position ASMC for long-term success and is a return to the Company's roots in the U.S. market, which began with motorcycles and has grown to include ATV and marine products. ASMC remains very proud of its high quality, high performance motorcycle, ATV and Marine products. The Company will continue to bring ASMC products to market, including its full lineup of sportbike, cruiser, touring, scooter, dualsport, motocross, off-road motorcycles and KingQuad ATV line, as well as its flagship DF300AP, state-of-the-art DF20A, and DF15A, among other models. Additionally, ASMC is working to further build its market share through continued investment in additional support for dealers through marketing and advertising activities and sales promotion. Suzuki will continue to have a strong presence as a sponsor of teams in supercross, outdoor motocross and road racing.

In evaluating its position in the highly regulated and competitive U.S. automotive industry, ASMC determined that its Automotive division was facing a number of serious challenges. These challenges include low sales volumes, a limited number of models in its line-up, unfavorable foreign exchange rates, the high costs associated with growing and maintaining an automotive distribution system in the continental U.S. and the disproportionally high and increasing costs associated with stringent state and federal regulatory requirements unique to the U.S. market. While the decision to discontinue new automobile sales in the U.S. was difficult to make, today's actions were inevitable under these circumstances. ASMC is dedicated to honoring its commitments to Automotive customers through and after the wind down of new automobile sales in the continental U.S.

An Orderly Process to Serve Consumers
ASMC intends to work within its current U.S. Automotive dealer network to help structure a smooth transition from new automobile sales to exclusively parts and service operations, or, in some instances, an orderly wind down of dealership operations. ASMC intends to market and sell its remaining U.S. automobile inventory through its Automotive dealer network. Through and after the restructuring, all warranties will be fully honored and automobile parts and services will be provided to consumers through the dealer network. ASMC intends to honor any automobile buyback agreements that are currently in place with financial institutions.

As part of its chapter 11 filings, ASMC will submit a proposed Plan of Reorganization and Disclosure Statement that specifies how the Motorcycle, ATV and Marine divisions will be maintained and enhanced, and how its relationship with Automotive dealers will be largely transitioned to support consumers and dealers through continued parts and service operations. SMC or its nominee intends to purchase ASMC's Motorcycle, ATV and Marine businesses, as well as the Automotive service operation responsible for parts and warranties, through a new U.S. subsidiary that will retain the ASMC brand name.

ASMC believes it has sufficient cash on hand to operate its businesses during the restructuring. If necessary, ASMC will request permission from the Court to borrow additional funds from SMC needed during the restructuring.

Honoring Commitments
ASMC intends to operate its Motorcycles/ATV and Marine businesses as usual and is dedicated to completing the realignment process as smoothly and efficiently as possible. ASMC will continue to fully stand behind all of its products and honor all warranties from these divisions. ASMC is working with GE Capital's Retail Finance and Commercial Distribution Finance businesses to continue providing motorcycles and ATV consumer financing programs and motorcycle, ATV and marine dealer inventory financing respectively. The Company expects existing agreements with other dealer and consumer financing providers to continue as well.

ASMC has filed a series of first day motions requesting approval to continue paying employee wages and benefits in the ordinary course, offering dealer incentives and payments under customer warranties. ASMC also expects to pay vendors in the normal course of business for goods and services delivered on or after its November 5, 2012 filing. Payments for goods received before ASMC's November 5, 2012 filing will be made in accordance with the chapter 11 procedure.

SMC, the 100 percent interest holder in ASMC, is not a debtor in the chapter 11 filing.

ASMC's legal advisor on the restructuring is Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP, and its financial advisor is FTI Consulting, Inc. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is serving as special counsel on automobile dealer and industry issues. Further, ASMC has proposed the appointment of M. Freddie Reiss, Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting, as Chief Restructuring Officer, and has also added two independent Board members to assist it through this period.

Additional information regarding ASMC's business realignment can be found at the Company's website,, or via an information hotline at 1-877-465-4819.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Faurecia will talk about the smart seat at CESA 2012

CESA 2012 abstract
Many comfort functions can be embedded in an automotive seat. These include basic postural comfort (cushion length, height, and tilt), advanced comfort (lumbar support, headrest adjustment, shoulder adjustment), climatic management (heating and ventilation), and wellness features (e.g. customized massage therapies or dynamic adjustments according to occupant status or to driving conditions). All those functions represent a huge amount of possible combinations of configurations and command executions, while they are not at all customizable along the time by the users (generally, just a few have programmable fixed alternatives by default).
In order to reduce the complexity of seat control for the end-user, and enable the possibility of customization, Faurecia has developed a new concept for automated seat adjustment, positioning and comfort features settings that takes out the guesswork to properly adjust the seat, while providing the end-user a powerful tool to personalize its comfort.
Utilizing a smartphone application, the SmartFit™ system automatically adjusts the vehicle’s seat wirelessly via Bluetooth, creating the ideal fit and position for each occupant. The system also allows the seat to be updated and enhanced over its lifetime. In order to control these new functions, the seat E/E system (HW/SW) has to be modular and connected to fit with customers’ expectations, and to be able to integrate future features and functions.

By Dr. Ignacio Alvarez, Seat Electronics Director at Faurecia.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's a Jeep thing: Jeep climbs U.S. border fence

If there's one four wheel drive I have always had a soft spot for, it was the Jeep Cherokee. My family had many of them during my childhood, so of course I liked them. So imagine my surprise when I logged on to MSN this morning and I saw this picture. Now what exactly is going on here? According to the short article, two Mexican suspected smugglers were attempting to drive, yes drive their cherokee over the 14 foot high border fence between Arizona and California.

Using some pretty creative homemade ramps, they abandoned the effort when the jeep got stuck. Hmmmm I wonder why that would happen? When agents spotted the Jeep, two men were on the Mexican side attempting to free it, but ran away. Nothing was found inside, but the U.S. border patrol is guessing the Jeep was being used to smuggle marijuana.

Source: MSN, photos: AP Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection