Hardware vs. Software: Where should priorities be in vehicle construction? https://www.automation.com/files/pluginfiles/item_99828/field_376/PAE084---Image_reg.jpg
By Emma Cygan, Design and Development Engineer, Pailton Engineering
Cost versus quality. People against automation. Hardware versus software. Is vehicle construction fueled with tension? This article describes how vehicle manufacturers need to balance the procurement of hardware and software for new vehicle concepts.
As industry moves toward autonomous vehicles, more resources are being devoted to software development from advanced telematics to complex collision avoidance systems. Software affects the full range of vehicle products and their use. Software is important for the future of vehicle design, and its new territory requires a great deal of research and development.
Although software is of paramount importance for these new vehicle concepts, it must not overshadow the necessary investment in vehicle hardware. We have news for you - traditionally technology is also developing technologically and investment in this area is just as important.
We see remarkable improvements in the physical and environmental properties of vehicle hardware. Thanks to expert engineering and extensive material testing, vehicle parts can now handle higher loads for longer periods of time. In addition, modern vehicle parts are now designed to withstand the temperature fluctuations, road debris, and high humidity encountered by vehicles in daily operations, creating the ultimate in ruggedness in the environment.
Steering parts are a good example of this. Last year, parts of the next generation were launched due to intensive development and testing. Pailton Engineering's third-generation inclined box, which underpinned daring claims about IP66 and IP67 ingress, made headlines for a 56-week intensive salt spray test.
However, enhanced environmental features are not the only advance in hardware. Gordon Murray's new chassis technology has been developed to significantly reduce the weight of commercial vehicles. Using aluminum thin-walled pipes and recycled honeycomb composite carbon composite panels halves the weight of the frame. The technology is able to reduce vehicle weight by half and could be used in every segment of the vehicle, from automobiles to heavy goods vehicles (lorries).
There is no comparable investment in hardware and software. Both are equally important for the development of new vehicle concepts.
It is important for vehicle manufacturers to carefully select hardware and software suppliers, make both investments equivalent, and look for suppliers' important trust markers. However, the requirements for software and hardware differ slightly.
For software, good patch management is not negotiable. Vehicle manufacturers need to know that software application upgrades can be made and maintenance performed efficiently. Take collision avoidance systems that rely on camera and radar accuracy to detect collisions before they occur. Without periodic updates and calibrations, the software may not work properly and may not detect an impending crash.
However, hardware does not have the luxury of having continuous updates and changes in its use. If parts manufacturers do not perform any ongoing maintenance, such as relubrication, throughout the life of the product.
In general, the hardware must be right the first time, usually for the life of a vehicle. To make this possible, manufacturers should select suppliers who can provide in-depth data on the lifespan of their products.
For example, when real-world vehicle data is used to design, manufacture, and test steering systems, suppliers can accurately predict the parts performance against the specified load and frequency data of the real application. With this insight, the customer can be sure that the part meets his requirements.
Data-driven design and testing are used in the production of hardware. By means of software analysis with strain gauges the material load can be determined and evaluated by compression and elongation against the end application.
While hardware vehicle parts may not be provided with remote upgrades like their software counterparts, the use of software for test processes will ensure the enduring life on the road.
The procurement of hardware and software in vehicle construction should have the same priorities. Ultimately, high-quality software must be installed in vehicles that are designed to last a lifetime, thanks to high-quality hardware.Did you like this article?
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