Driverless tech makes ‘robust’ cars redundant

Robust is possibly one of the most common words used in the traditional auto industry geared to build products able to withstand the potential trauma of life on our roads.

Yet, driverless technology could open the way to vehicles as fragile as egg shells, according to Olivier Cottereau vice-president sales and marketing EMEA for Dutch semiconductor specialist NXP.

TU-Automotive caught up with Cottereau at the London presentation of an electric vehicle built by student engineers of Eindhoven University of Technology, called TU/ecomotive and no relation to this organisation, supported by NXP. The Lina car weighs just 300kgs and is certified by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority as roadworthy and suitable to carry four people.

The young engineers used a combination of bio-composite and bio-plastic for the chassis including honeycomb structure bio-plastic, or PLA, as the core material manufactured from sugar beets. It is enveloped in bio-composite sheets composed of flax. In terms of its strength-weight ratio, the bio-composite is comparable with fibreglass. Bodywork also is flax-based.

Lina proves, members of TU/ecomotive told the presentation at the Dutch Embassy in Kensington, that cars can be constructed with much lower carbon footprint than existing metal vehicles, such as the aluminium rich Range Rover it claims burns around half of its whole-life carbon footprint the moment it rolls off the production line.

Yet, autonomous technology could reduce wasted energy in vehicle production still further, said Cottereau. He told us: “I would expect, as we move towards self-driving cars, such new technology could be applied that’s because we are enabling a safer environment where there is no human error. In this case you could expect the norm to evolve to be able to use a lot of different materials because they would not have to be as robust as the current ones.”

He said NXP’s mission in supporting projects such as the Lina is to drive forward manufacturing efficiencies for the benefit of everyone. “Right now we have to continue to push and help innovation and show that we can improve the industry,” he said.

Cottereau insisted this future vision is not so far away with current technology closing in rapidly on a driverless environment. He explained: “This could happen through autonomous innovation and I think sensors will be the premium piece of technology here. We need to have all the blocks, whether it’s radar, LiDAR or any type of sensor. It’s also critical in this technology to have fusion-sensors that are able to cope with all that data and extract the relevant information to complete the appropriate manoeuvre.

“Another development we are seeing in that, in the past, we saw all the home technologies coming into the car. Now, we will be seeing the evolution of the car technology going back into the home. For example, things like voice recognition and gesture control these will happen in the car before it comes into our homes. So this is a real shift in what is driving innovation and technology.”


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