IAF | Links | Other Stuff | Electronic Warfare | Modern trends in automobile design | Pics
The 13 Vultures site
Modern trends in automobile design


                                 MODERN TRENDS IN AUTOMOBILE DESIGN




Automobiles are the future of the worlds transport system because of their versatility, cost and dependability. They however are far from being perfect and are in the need of technology to improve their capabilities and harness their full growth potential. This report endeavors to bring out the true potential of the automobile and some

eye-catching advancements made in this field. These are meant to increase the efficiency, performance, safety and comfort of the future automobile.



Automobiles, they are an integral part of our lives. Developments made in engine technology, aerodynamics, safety, different fuel sources and some futuristic features to be adapted to everyday vehicles have been covered. As regards the Indian market, a gradual transformation of the transportation system is driving the auto industry towards these advancements in India. Some factors that prompt the development of these technologies are tighter emission norms force the development of clean fuels and clean engines; shorter stopping distances require features like ABS.



Automobile engines have come a along way, from being thirsty oil burners to compact, silent and efficient fuel consumers. But the basic idea remains the same ie: the piston driving the crankshaft.

 Todays engines are much more intelligent than their ancestors. They have a number of sensors monitoring their function and are digitally controlled by on board computers. Todays engines have a artificial brain of their own. A revolutionary advancement in engine technology was the introduction of the VTEC system

(Variable valve timing and electronic lift control) by HONDA MOTORS .This system varies the timing of the opening and closing of the valves present on each cylinder head. By doing this the efficiency of the engine can be manipulated according to the needs. As a result the engine can be run in an economy mode or in a performance according to the demanding conditions.

The most recently invented system called The NOS (Nitrous Oxide System) developed by NOS Technologies USA , pumps nitrous oxide instead of compressed in the cylinders as a result the power increases by three to four times its original bhp output.

  Car makers have turned their attention to more fuel saving engines like Hybrid engines which work simultaneously on fuel as well as electric power.



Aerodynamics is simply how air flows over, under, and sideways over a vehicle. It comprises of two main components coefficient of drag (CD) and frontal area (sq feet).

CD is just a measure of how much out of 100%  a vehicle lets air flow around it.  Typically sports cars have coefficients of between 0.28 and 0.45. The lower the number is, the easier it is for air to pass around a car. Frontal Area describes how much area in sq feet a car has to punch a hole through the air. Another term used widely is downforce. Downforce is simply how air affects the weight of a car in motion. It can be negative, neutral, or positive depending on the car and application. There are two easy ways to increase downforce: airdamps and/or spoilers. Front spoilers that extend lower to the ground produce more downforce on the front tires, shorter ones produce less.  Rear spoilers on cars increase downforce on the rear of the car; the larger the spoiler is (height), the more downforce it produces. The tall rear spoilers increase the CD of a vehicle; Lower front spoilers increase the frontal area. You need to balance the spoilers to get the optimum downforce, CD, and frontal area. The less frontal area you have, the less air there is (sq footage) to push around the car.  Every little reduction in frontal area helps. Narrower tires also reduce frontal area noticeably.  Removing your side mirrors also decreases frontal area. The lower the CD, the easier it is for air to pass around your car.  A typical way to decrease the CD of a car is to "smooth" it out, or cut obstructions that air "catches" onto as it passes around your car.  Removing the rear spoiler on a car will improve CD, but decrease rear wheel downforce.



There is a dark future ahead of us if the automobile industry is to not discontinue the massive use of fossil fuels. Hence fuel cells are the best alternatives, fuel cells works on an electrochemical process in which the conversion of energy stored in a fuel, chemically to electrical energy takes place in a very efficient manner. No pollutants are created in fuel cell vehicles that operate with hydrogen directly; they are completely emission-free. In these vehicles, a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen occurs, in the course of which electrical energy and heat are released and plain pure water is produced as "exhaust"!!

As illustrated above, the fuel cell in principle is made up of:

1.      Anode: It conducts the electrons that are freed from the hydrogen molecules. It has channels etched into it that disperse the hydrogen gas equally over the surface of the catalyst.

2.      Cathode: It has channels etched into it that distribute the oxygen to the surface of the catalyst. It also conducts the electrons back from the external circuit to the catalyst, where they can recombine with the hydrogen ions and oxygen to form water.

3.      Proton exchange membrane: It only conducts positively charged ions. The membrane blocks electrons.

4.      Catalyst is a special material that facilitates the reaction of oxygen and hydrogen. It is usually made of platinum powder very thinly coated onto carbon paper or cloth. The catalyst is rough and porous so that the maximum surface area of the platinum can be exposed to the hydrogen or oxygen. The platinum-coated side of the catalyst faces the PEM.

 Further is the fact that hydrogen is available in large quantities compared to petroleum. The simplest method of producing hydrogen is through the electrolysis of water.

Methanol: In principle, methanol can be produced from any carbon source - from renewable organic raw materials, biomass (aplenty in a country like India), or even industrial waste gases. Methanol will be the practical fuel over the long term for petroleum-independent, individual transportation with fuel cell vehicles (mentioned above).



Originally developed for aircraft, ABS basically works by limiting the pressure to any wheel which decelerates too rapidly. This allows maximum stopping force to be applied without brake lockup (skidding). If standard brakes are applied too hard, the wheels "lock" or skid, which prevents them from giving directional control. If directional control (steering) is lost, the vehicle skids in a straight line wherever it is going. ABS allows the driver to steer during hard braking, which allows you to control the car much better. In the old days, drivers had to know how to "pump" the brakes or sense the lockup and release foot pressure in order to prevent skidding. This meant that if only one wheel lost traction and started to skid, the driver would have to reduce braking force to prevent a skid. The advantage of ABS is that the brakes on the wheels with good traction can be used to the fullest possible amount, even if other wheels lose traction. In operation, the wheel speed sensors at each wheel send electronic pulse signals to the control unit.

 If wheel lockup (rapid deceleration) is detected during brake application, the computer signals the valve unit to limit the hydraulic pressure to the wheel cylinder. This is usually accomplished by diverting the fluid into a small reservoir. The fluid is later pumped out of the reservoir and returned to the main fluid reservoir when the brakes are not being applied.



 Engineers are working on electronic steering and control system for future cars which will not have a steering wheel or pedals. Instead, the driver controls the car by means of side-sticks on the centre console and interior door trim. The side-sticks permit the driver to control all movements of the car the side-sticks have to be moved to the left or right to turn, and instead of pressing pedals, the driver moves the stick forward and backward for accelerating and braking. This is achieved by means of a computer logic used by a powerful microcomputer which calculates set points for safe driving within fractions of a second, taking sensor-recorded data about the driving situation at any given point in time into account. On the basis of these set points, the computer executes the driver's commands in such a way that the car always remains safely on course, even in critical situations. The injury hazard for the occupants is reduced, in case of frontal crash  as there are neither pedals nor a steering wheel that could be displaced.



The future cars will have novel steering system for cars which will use electronic and hydraulic components instead of humans. The steering column and its joints will be replaced by a single cable that is connected to a high-performance driving dynamics computer. The drivers order will be transmitted to a hydraulic system which changes the turning angle of the front wheels in accordance with the computer's precise commands.

The driver's commands like accelerating, braking, steering, reversing are interpreted as demands by the computer which then decides at lightning speed in what way the driver's commands can be executed most effectively and safely. The computer uses the information from various sensors which record, road speed, wheel and engine revs, road condition and bodywork movements. On the basis of this data, the computer determines the turning angle of the wheels for cornering or the engine speed for starting off on a wet road. Thus the cars performance can be fully exploited without crossing the physical limits of the car. Electronics thus can keep the car safe by controlling the steering, brakes, engine and transmission of the car. The key element of this new system is a reference model which consists of the car's basic technical data and sensor-recorded information. On this basis, the computer calculates set points which are permanently modified and adapted to the driving state at any given point in time. These set points determine the car's handling and in critical situations permit the computer to control the steering or brakes so as to maintain stability. 



 Adaptive cruise control:  It automatically adjusts a vehicle's speed, applying the brakes if necessary, to match the speed of the vehicle ahead. It could take some time before the device becomes widely used.

 Forward collision warning systems: They detect when objects in the road have slowed or stopped.

 Road- or lane-departure warning devices: These alert drivers when they stray from their lanes without using a turn signal.

 Blind-spot warning systems which signal when there is something behind a vehicle that is backing up and when there is a vehicle in the lane beside it. There are simple versions now available on some cars warning of objects to the rear, but more complex systems that detect vehicles in adjacent lanes still are being developed.

Airbags are a currently used system of collision protection. They are commonly used in cars (outside India) and are a compulsory safety feature.

Airbags can be placed in many places to provide the passangers optimum safety levels in the event of an accident, for example the side doors, the rearview mirror, behind the glove box etc.

 Night vision:  currently available on cars like the Cadillac DeVille. It uses infrared detectors to help drivers identify objects on the roadway that are not visible with normal headlights.



GPS consists of 24 satellites surrounding the earth. The car antenna receives signals from satellites and the land-based receiver uses these for the accuracy. The GPS satellites inform a position and then the computer in the car calculates this position together with the one that the driver has programmed into the computer; and everything is shown on the screen. The position compares with the digital map, which is on the CD-ROM. Most cars in the future will have electronic speedometers which will calculate the travelling time, and give the driver information about the road.



A very interesting and bold new step in the field of custom-built cars, General Motors USA has introduced a revolutionary new system of developing automobiles namely the Skateboard

This involves building the basic independent chassis and depending on the customers preferences like type of car (coupe, sedan, pick-up, SUV), fittings like seats, high tech systems and their ilk a car can be made.



We envision the future automobile to be a mobile office having all the necessary equipment like a fax machine, computer, comfortable interiors, and even a toilet!

The car would be well equipped with airbags for all passengers, collision avoidance systems, the silicon chauffeur, fuel efficient and environment friendly engines and GPS navigation. These innovations would minimize the chances of an accident, while still being user friendly.

Thus, the car of the future will be a quantum leap in technology, economy, reliability, efficiency, safety, performance and much more environmental friendly.






Overdrive magazine



Copyrighted info....any attempt to copy without express written permission prohibited