Control in the Automotive Industry: Accomplishments in the Twentieth Century, Challenges in the Twenty-First Century


James Winkelman
Ford Research Lab.

The automotive industry is one of the most global industries in the world. It is an intensely competitive business, which affects the economies and environments of essentially every country in the world. World wide annual vehicle production reached 30 million around 1970, today it is about 50 million and by the end of the next decade it is projected to reach around 70 million. The impact of the automobile on the environment was recognized in the United States in the late 1960Us and since then, vehicles are over ten times cleaner and have over twice the average fuel economy. Further, vehicles are significantly safer and offer the customer comfort and convenience levels not thought of in the 1970Us. These advancements have been driven to a large part by the explosive development of low cost embedded microprocessor control systems.

What does the future hold? There will be emission challenges, which could be more difficult than those faced in the past. A significant reduction in all emissions, including CO2 , must simultaneously be achieved. This may require the use of new powertrains and/or alternative fuels. The market will push for safer vehicles through electronically augmented control of vehicle dynamics under both normal and emergency conditions. All of this while providing greater comfort for the passengers. Development of control systems to allow the next generation vehicles to meet governmental regulations, customer expectations and be manufactured at an affordable cost will be key to successful product development.