Infotronics & Informatics: An Emerging Platform for Industrial Development

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Pollution and emission control to combat climate change. Pollution due to growing population of automobiles is of major concern in the last two decades, as harmful gases like carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, sulphur oxides are emitted. Researchers demonstrated in 1956 that smog was manufactured in the air by the action of sunlight on chemicals in the exhaust of automobiles.

A number of advanced technologies were adopted to get through the problem of foreign competition versus original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), but no breakthrough happened until the development of a three-way catalytic convertor that used rare-earth metals as catalysts and converted CO into CO2 , hydrocarbons into CO2 and water and oxides of nitrogen into N2.

Although it converted 98 per cent of harmful gases into harmless ones, the convertor was very sensitive to stoichiometric conditions. The solution to this was Lambda-Sond System developed by Volvo in 1970. The system introduced the use of a digital sensor at the junction of the exhaust and catalytic convertor, thereby detecting the slightest disturbance in stoichiometric ratios.

This was the first application of modern IT to control automobiles for emission control. This concept was used in Volvo’s 240 model launched in California, USA, in 1976. Though the concept of Lambda-Sond reduced pollution to a great extent, long-term maintenance of the process became very expensive for the customers to maintain efficiency. Hence, it became the responsibility of the OEM to sell not only products in general but also spare parts of engines in particular and give guarantee on the same. All these concepts were realised by the contribution of IT for a better electronic registry.

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Safety of travellers. If we look at the past, we will find automobiles no less than horse carts being dragged on roads through internal combustion engines rather than animals. The cars made were not long-lasting, mainly with respect to the material of the body, glasses, wind shields and protection against shocks.

Operators were handled poorly, their brakes were inadequate and automobiles had sudden mechanical failures, hence no concrete protection was assured. Advancement in design and technology in the industry improved passenger safety when Detroit brothers John Dodge and Horace Dodge introduced the first all-steel car bodies in mass production in 1914.

Use of polyvinyl-acetate-laminated glass for safety and progress in the production of improved brakes, tyres, steering gears, windshield wipers and other components boosted the concept of safety. In addition to this, it gave rise to the concept of seatbelts (by Volvo in 1960) and use of disk brakes at least in the front wheels (by European OEMs).

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Fig. 2: Scope of Automotive Skill Development Council

IT gave birth to the use of automatic brakes, deceleration-detecting airbag systems during shock or accidents that added to the safety up to the maximum extent. In present systems, the driver receives a warning when the door of a vehicle is opened or the braking system fails. Such concepts of digital and electronic warnings are gifts by the IT to the safety of the automobile and people.

Along with this, recent efforts in terms of intelligent vehicles and intelligent transportation systems are aimed largely at safety and reducing time of travel. The huge progress in MIS brought up by the IT sector to the auto industry has played a major role in passenger safety.

Relaxation and psychological comforts. You must all be familiar with toy car racing games and adults who not only watch these sports but also take part in competitions. Sporting models were produced as soon as large sedans and racing became popular. It all started in Cunningham, Kansas, USA, when a car installed the first-ever automobile radio, followed by the production of car radio under Motorola in 1930.

People found that a vehicle without entertainment is hectic and boring. Soon an eight-track format came into existence via recording companies that began to sell pre-recorded cartridges. Hence, the era of custom sound began, and technology rapidly evolved to include FM stereo radios, compact cassette tape decks, compact audio CD decks and MP3 players. OEMs started using brand names for these products like Infinity, JBL and Bose to attract people.

Then came the concept of digital MP3s, flat-screen LCDs and DVD players that allow passengers to watch recorded television content in the car itself. This became possible as the world of information interfered with the world of automobiles.

Smart and fast communication. Adaptation of MP3 players, DVD players and LCD screens in the interiors of the automobiles with reference to entertainment was followed by the evolution of hands-free communication systems via voice communication where drivers do not need to use their hands to pick up their mobile phones to talk. This reduced the chances of accidents to a great extent, which occurred because of careless drivers holding the phones in one hand and steering wheel in the other.

There is considerable speculation that traditional telephony, which is now largely digital, will transform and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, would come into the picture by virtue of which people would not only communicate via the Internet but also take any other kind of services.

Infotronics & Informatics
Fig. 3: New initiatives in uutomotive infotronics and informatics

We saw the coming of Global Positioning System (GPS), which provides mobile phones with pinpoint geographic locations. Therefore even if automobiles are not embedded with such systems like automobile electronics, just by connecting our mobile devices in a slot, digital mobile telephony can become a tool by which every vehicle on the road becomes a part of the network of communication and entertainment. All credit goes to IT, which is the heart of these recent advancement in communication in automobiles arena.

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