Indiana companies and universities have a lot to offer when it comes to applying technology to the movement towards autonomous controlled vehicles. There are a number of Indiana-based automotive companies that have a strong interest in autonomous controls and power electronics including Cummins, Delphi and LHP Engineering Solutions, as well as universities including Purdue, IUPUI and Trine. These investments and technological contributions can have a significant impact to the safety of our roadways and environmental initiatives.
Nearly $100 billion is being invested annually in automotive research worldwide with a significant portion of that investment occurring here in the Midwest and in Indiana. To maintain a strong position in the industry and to take advantage of job growth and talent retention opportunities, it will be vitally important for Indiana companies to pay attention to these new technology trends in transportation. One of these trends includes a heavy investment to incorporate power electronics into the drivetrain of all types of vehicles. Elon Musk has predicted that all transportation applications except the rocket ship will eventually incorporate power electronics. And, with an annual death toll of up to 40,000 on U.S. highways, driver-assisted autonomous controls and connected vehicles have the potential to be a major lifesaver, with the majority of vehicle accidents being due to driver error.
LHP has been focused on being at the forefront of both of these technology trends, including a partnership with Purdue University working on a recently announced collegiate competition for autonomous-controlled electric-powered Go-Karts. LHP has also become a leader for North America in Functional Safety (ISO 26262) standards, offering training for engineers and expertise to companies working to reach compliance with their safety-critical systems applied to autonomous vehicles and Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS). LHP provides engineering solutions as well as technology solutions to help manufacturers build intelligence, connectivity, and insight into their vehicles through the use of embedded systems, telematics, and data analytics.
One of the major industry challenges that exist with implementing all this new technology is that electronic systems, including hardware and software, are getting exponentially more complex. The amount of engineering effort required to deploy this advanced technology is quickly exceeding the amount of engineering capacity available to companies. In addition, the enrollment at engineering universities for students seeking an engineering degree has remained relatively level at most schools. This is most likely due to perception issues of being an engineer. Many people may perceive engineers to be more in construction or mechanics and electricians doing more or less dirty, boring jobs. The reality of engineering today is a very dynamic field and professional environment with all types of opportunities in scientific research as well as business opportunities such as technical management, sales and operations. One of the primary rewards of being an engineer is the opportunity to provide key inputs to advance new technology in areas that can dramatically impact people’s lives.
Although getting more people interested in engineering will help with limitations around engineering constraints, that is not the ultimate solution. Technology will also need to be applied to improve simulations and automate certain aspects of the engineering process. Engineering organizations need to consider technology that will optimize engineering processes and better utilize engineering assets, including people and technology.
The world is going through a revolution in technology that will dramatically change the transportation options available and the way we use and own vehicles going forward. Power electronics can dramatically improve the environmental impact of using fossil fuels, while autonomous controls technology can completely change the way we live and employment options while saving lives and improving productivity for those that are traveling or commuting.
It is a great time to be an engineer and a great opportunity for companies in the Midwest and in Indiana to be a driving force in this technology movement.
David Glass is the Co-Founder and CEO of LHP Engineering Solutions headquartered in Columbus, IN and has been providing engineering services and engineering technology to the transportation industry since 2001.