Automobiles: Packed With Electronics, From Boot to Bonnet

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“Automakers are under increasing pressure from both governments and consumers to improve overall fuel efficiency across their fleet (e.g., the US goal is 54.5 MPG by 2025) and lower polluting emissions. This is achieved by increasingly tight computerised control of the complete engine combustion process,” says Ganesh.

A PCM often includes powerful processors (32-bit), sophisticated control strategies, smart sensors and actuators. It uses various sensors such as oxygen sensor, coolant sensor, mass air-flow sensor, air-intake sensor, crankshaft-angle sensor, throttle-position sensor, camshaft-angle sensor and knock sensor, to monitor the automobile’s working and adjust the air/fuel mixture for maximum efficiency and least pollution.

Making a PCM requires cutting-edge design and development tools for application software development, diagnostics, porting to different platforms, functional testing, re-engineering of legacy code, modelling of sensors, actuators and components, vehicle suspension controls and electronic power steering, calibration engineering, high-level synchronisation and so on. Tool chains like ETAS, INCA Instrumentation, CANAnalyzer, CANDela, CANOe, Pi auto simulator bench and static vehicle simulator, and open-/closed-loop LabCar are used. Protocols like CAN, LIN, J1850, OBD-II, EOBD, UDS and KWP2000 are popular.

Vehicle diagnostics
A lot of electronics goes into monitoring the health of vehicles. On-board electronics add self-diagnostic and reporting capabilities to modern automobiles. Earlier, diagnostic tools were limited to lighting up relevant indicators to warn the driver, but today’s connected versions provide real-time information to drivers, fleet owners and rescue teams using standardised communication protocols and trouble codes, allowing rapid problem identification and rectification. Most modern tools can relay information to mobile devices.

A combination of on-board diagnostics, handheld scan tools, PC-based scan tools and analysis platforms, data loggers, etc is often used. Apart from the many analysers, scopes and meters installed in the vehicle to monitor engine, battery, air-conditioning, smoke and fluid levels, enthusiastic drivers often go in for additional instrumentation to monitor more parameters. These components are often managed by a diagnostic engine and advanced software controls.

Several standards and tool chains are available for design and development of diagnostic equipment, production testing, remote diagnostic interfaces and application-programming interfaces, etc. On-board diagnostics-II (OBD2) and Open diagnostics exchange (ODX) standards are popular today. These specify a data model to describe diagnostic data, including diagnostic trouble codes, data parameters, identification data, input/output parameters and communication parameters.

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