Automotive Legislative Constraints, Emissions, Noise and Safety

In this article, I am going to look at the mega trends and future trends for the automotive industry, climate change, the motor vehicle impact of climate change and how we are trying to reduce this, legislative drivers, emissions controls, safety trends so that zero fatalities can be achieved, noise, vibration and harshness, on-board diagnostics, electronic control implications and complete consumer choice. Please feel free to skip to the part most relevant to you.

The MEGA Trends

The automotive industry is always facing some huge trends to keep up with such as:
  • Zero emissions
  • Zero fatalities
  • Complete consumer choice

Climate Change

Although there are some people that do not believe in global warming and climate change, there is an argument for these people. Even if climate change is not real and does not exist, is it worth the risk of doing nothing considering the risk is the Earth we live on to become inhabitable?

There is 'strong evidence' hat climate change has been attributed to human activity. At the moment (2015), carbon dioxide levels have increased from around 280ppm (parts per million) to 375ppm today. If we do not change anything today, carbon dioxide will raise to more than 1000ppm which will cause unacceptable long term damage such as accelerated sea-level rise and a 20-30 degree Fahrenheit warming in parts.

There is data that suggests 450ppm needs to be achieved t manage climate change to acceptable levels. 

Motor Vehicle Impact

Transport Impact to CO2 Emissions 
Transportation is a growing percentage of total emissions that contribute to climate change. Saying this, the carbon dioxide that is produced from power stations is still three times that of the motor vehicle impact.
There are good signs, though. The passenger cars carbon dioxide emissions seems to be improving. However, there is a necessity to improve since 'business as usual' will not be a viable strategy.

Legislative Drivers

To improve the emissions produced by cars, what, inparticularly, needs to be reduced coming out of engine's exhausts?
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
  • Unburnt hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Particulate Matter (PM)
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Of course, carbon dioxide is the emission that is most controlled because it is the leading gas to climate change and is directly proportional to fuel consumption. The levels of emissions produced are measured during a legislates emissions dynanometer testing. At the moment (2015_, the average car in Europe produces 160g/km. There is a legal limit that by 2020 the average car in Europe, at maximum, can produce 95g/km. 
With each of the above emissions comes legislated levels that have been defined through the use of a 20km rolling road drive cycle (as part of Euro 6, Jan 1st 2014):
  • NOx - 0.08gm/km (diesel)
  • HC - 0.068gm/km (petrol)
  • CO - 0.05gm/km (diesel)
  • PM - 0.005gm/km
  • CO2 - 130gm/km for 2015 and 95gm/km for 2020

Zero Fatalities - Safety Trends

  • Multiple air bags to protect passengers even more in crashes - This range in front of the driver and passenger, side, thorax, knee and even air bags to protect the pedestrian on the bonnet and bumper. To ensure absolute reliability of air bags, the safety system's electronics are usually completely separate from all other wiring and electronic control to ensure there are no failures at all.
  • Stability and traction control - If one wheel rotates more slowly than the other wheel, this indicates a loss of traction. In this case, traction control is applied by applying brake pressure to the spinning wheel and also by reducing the engine fuelling or ignition to regain traction. 
  • Mandatory anti-lock brake system in Europe (ABS) - ABS works by using wheel sensors to detect the differential speed of rotation of the wheels. As one wheel stops rotating, the ABS system momentarily releases pressure on the brake calliper piston of the locked wheel so that the wheel can gain traction again. Once the wheel has gained traction, the brakes are then reapplied again.
  • Daytime running lights for better visibility of cars.
  • Potentially external speed control?
  • A system to warn of lane departures.
  • A system to provide automatic crash avoidance/mitigation.

Noise, Vibration and Harshness

Due to legal requirements, there are provisions for drive by noise at a set defined acceleration and gear. For cars, the noise tends to be dominated by tyre noise. Some engines may need specific engine calibration to achieve the legal noise limits (such as the upper-end sports and super cars).

Although there is the legal requirement to make cars quieter, customers generally want load engines that sound pleasing to the ear. For such customers, the acceptance of noise sound levels and quality can be tuned by the engine transmission and calibration.

On-Board Diagonstics (OBD)

On-board diagnostics have been a legislative equipment since Euro 5. It monitors the vehicle's emissions performance through the tail pipe using a HEGO sensor and calibration data. If the vehicle does not comply with the legal limits, a dashboard warning will pop up to advise the driver to take the vehicle for a service to repair the problem. The OBD will have codes to provide feedback on the specific failure. 
Vehicles are, by law, required to be certified that they can comply with the legislative requirements up to 100,000km. This is done on a dynanometer.

What are the Future Trends?

You can expect to see future emission trends such as:
  • All noxious emissions to continually reduce.
  • CO2 target to be archived from 130gm/km today to 95gm/km by 2020 (although many small hatchbacks cars are already achieving this and beyond).
  • Possibly 70 or even 30 gm/km by 2050. This would equate to around a 80-90% reduction from 1990 levels.
Other future trends consist of:
  • Brake by wire and steer by wire.
  • Active crash mitigation.
  • Automatic brake application.
  • Automatic steering for obstacle avoidance.
  • Fully autonomous cars?

Electronic Control Implications

The electronic detection and control response can sometimes be much faster than human response. Saying this, the failure modes need to be rigorously analysed. For example, there is the problem of the car going into the tunnel. A car with a safety control response is just about to head into a tunnel. At this moment, a little girl runs out onto the road. The car can avoid her. But, by doing so, the occupants in the car will die as the car will be forced to crashing into the side of the tunnel or the car decides to hit the girl to save the car's driver and passengers. This problem is going to be a huge problem for accident avoidance systems since the car is going to have to choose what to do.

Complete Consumer Choice

Another trend that has fallen into the automotive industry is consumer choice. Consumers want the option of customizing the car they want even more and also by having more cars to choose from. This will result in more customisation of consumer specifications during production as well as customer selectable operating modes such (sport/comfort/economy settings for powertrain, suspension and steering).