WCX17: SAE World Congress Experience

Evolution of event demonstrates growing array of technologies in modern mobility

2017/04/21

Summary

 The WCX17: SAE World Congress Experience, previously known as the SAE World Congress, was renamed for this year’s iteration to highlight the concepts of understanding and sharing mobility technology through interaction and engagement. WCX17 was held from April 4 through April 6, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. The theme of WCX17 was “Sustainability through Innovation”, highlighted by the range of technological content and concepts presented at the event. A variety of topics were presented and discussed at WCX17, including electric vehicles, autonomous and ADAS technologies, lightweighting, and mobility trends and models such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing.

 This report focuses on technologies, systems and ideas presented by parties at WCX17, both in the exhibits displayed and from speaking sessions. Participants included automakers such as Ford and Honda, suppliers such as Denso and AAM, and representatives from companies such as Uber and Lyft

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Related reports:
SAE 2016 World Congress: OEM exhibits

WCX17 exhibit floor entrance
WCX17 exhibit floor entrance


Ford focuses on vehicle electrification

C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid, Ford Transit Connect Taxi Hybrid

 Recently, Ford has emphasized its efforts in vehicle electrification. During WCX17, Ford reiterated its strategy of investing USD 4.5 billion in electric vehicle solutions from 2015 through 2020, while unveiling 13 new electrified vehicles during the same time period. This was highlighted by Ford’s WCX17 display, which included the C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid and the Ford Transit Connect hybrid taxi. The C-Max Energi and C-Max Hybrid were introduced in the U.S. as Ford’s first dedicated hybrid vehicle line in 2012. Features of the C-Max Energi include an electric-only range of approximately 20 miles, best-in-class 188 combined horsepower, and the capability to fully charge the vehicle in 2.5 hours using a 240-volt charger.

Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid
Ford Fusion Autonomous Hybrid
Ford Transit Connect Hybrid taxi
Ford Transit Connect Hybrid taxi

 A prototype of the Ford Transit Connect hybrid taxi was also on display at WCX17, representing a culmination of the company’s electrical experience and work. In January 2017, Ford announced that it was testing a fleet of 20 Transit Connect hybrid taxis in New York and other major U.S. cities. Specific technical details about the Transit Connect hybrid were still unavailable, though it was noted that the standard Transit Connect uses a 2.5-liter I4 engine.

 Another example of Ford’s focus on vehicle electrification was an information display which listed its current lineup of electric models and showed examples of various charging equipment. The range of electric models emphasized the number of options available under the Ford brand which fit a variety of consumer needs. The charging equipment on display included a 240V level 2 home charging system, capable of fully charging the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi in 2.5 hours and fully charging the Focus Electric in 5.5 hours. Ford also displayed a level 1 charging cord included with all Ford electric vehicles, which can be used in any standard 120V electric outlet.

Ford Transit Connect Hybrid taxi
Ford 240V home charging system

Ford Fusion Autonomous Hybrid Development Vehicle

 Unveiled at CES 2017, the second-generation Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicle was also shown at WCX17, with a live display of the vehicle’s surroundings through its sensor array. The Ford Fusion Hybrid features two lidar scanners with a more targeted field of vision than its predecessor. Other sensors include three cameras mounted on each of the Fusion’s two roof racks, a forward-facing camera under the windshield, and short- and long-range radar sensors. In August 2016, Ford announced its acquisition of SAIPS, a computer vision and machine learning company, to support its development of autonomous vehicles.

Ford Fusion Autonomous HybridFord Fusion Autonomous Hybrid Display from Ford Fusion sensors of surrounding areaDisplay from Ford Fusion sensors of surrounding area

 During operations, the vehicle collects up to 600 gigabytes of data per hour from the road and the surrounding environment, which is then used to create a high-resolution three-dimensional map of the area. All of the data and sensors are managed by the Fusion Hybrid’s computer system, located in the trunk of the vehicle. The hybrid powertrain of the Fusion provides an additional benefit for the autonomous system, as its high-voltage battery pack helps provide power.
Trunk of Ford Fusion Autonomous Hybrid containing its computer systemTrunk of Ford Fusion Autonomous Hybrid containing its computer system

Perfect Position Seating on Lincoln Continental

 Ford showcased several of its current models in the atrium of the Cobo Center in Detroit. Most notably, the 2017 Lincoln Continental was displayed, specifically highlighting its Perfect Position Seats. The Perfect Position Seat was designed by first benchmarking the seating capabilities of Lincoln’s competitors, and then by independently developing occupant-centric technologies. As such, the seat features a maximum of 30 adjustable settings and uses 50% less trim and 20% less foam. Furthermore, independent development of the seat helped establish a new image for both the interior and the Lincoln brand. Development of the Perfect Position Seat has resulted in 83 total patents filed with 30 of those patents awarded to date.

Perfect Position Seat
Perfect Position Seat
Perfect Position Seat cutaway
Perfect Position Seat cutaway

Sync capabilities

 In addition to its vehicle models, Ford highlighted the capabilities of its Sync infotainment system. One display featured Sync’s use of SmartDeviceLink, a product which enables smartphone applications to be integrated with in-vehicle infotainment and control systems. Another display demonstrated how Sync integrates with Amazon Alexa, an intelligent personal assistant service in Amazon Echo and Tap devices. The integration allows users in the car to use voice commands to interact with internet-enabled functions, such as lighting and garage door controls. Conversely, users can also control certain home-to-car features such as remote vehicle start and door locks.

Ford Sync system activating light through Amazon Alexa
Ford Sync system activating light through Amazon Alexa



Honda highlights locally produced models and transmission

Honda Ridgeline cutaway
Honda Ridgeline cutaway

2017 Honda Ridgeline

 Honda’s exhibit on the main floor focused on technology and products manufactured in the U.S. and targeted towards U.S. consumers. This was seen in its display of a cutaway version of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, winner of the 2017 North America Truck of the Year. The Ridgeline cutaway helped highlight its unibody construction, which contributes to its 28% increase in torsional rigidity and a decrease in weight of up to 33.1 kilograms compared to its predecessor. The 2017 Ridgeline also features increased use of advanced materials, improving vehicle dynamics, safety performance, and NVH characteristics compared to its predecessor. 55.0% of the 2017 Ridgeline’s body is comprised of high-strength steels, with 19.3% of the body formed from ultra high-strength steel.

 Other body features highlighted by the Ridgeline cutaway include the second-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) Body Structure design. The ACE structure utilizes connected structural elements in the front of the vehicle to distribute crash energy more evenly, thus reducing the force transferred to the passenger compartment. This is further supported by the reinforced cabin. Another feature is the three-bone front floor structure, which helps to redirect energy around the passenger cabin during a frontal collision. One bone directs forces underneath the passenger cabin while the other two directs energy to the left and right side frames. The 2017 Ridgeline is manufactured at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln.

 

Honda Odyssey partial cutaway
Honda Odyssey partial cutaway

2018 Honda Odyssey

 A partial cutaway of the new 2018 Honda Odyssey was Honda’s other vehicle displayed at WCX17. In conjunction with a session hosted by Honda engineers, the partial cutaway served to highlight systems which improved comfort and convenience, primarily in the driving experience. One of the featured systems is a new Dual Pinion Electric Power Steering (EPS) system. The Dual Pinion EPS provides advantages such as 0.44 fewer steering wheel turns from lock-to-lock versus the previous Odyssey, speed-sensitive steering which requires less turns of the wheel at lower driving speeds, and improved maneuverability at medium speeds. In comparison to its predecessor, the 2018 Odyssey has higher yaw rate gain at all speeds, thus offering better maneuverability and stability.

 The 2018 Odyssey also features a new trailing arm rear suspension with stabilizer bar instead of the multi-link double wishbone rear suspension in the previous Odyssey. The new suspension not only provides improved handling, comfort, and NVH characteristics, but is smaller than the previous system. This enables the 2018 Odyssey to have more space in the interior. The Odyssey’s new body also features heavy use of advanced materials, with high-strength steel comprising 58% of the body. In addition, certain areas of the body were redesigned to improve its strength, such as the side sill, the connection between the frame and the cabin, and the increased use of structural adhesive. The changes resulted in a 44% increase in torsional body rigidity and a weight reduction of 34 kilograms.

 

New ten-speed automatic transmission

 Another of the key features introduced in the 2018 Odyssey is the new ten-speed automatic transmission, which was also displayed. Manufactured at Honda’s plant in Tallapoosa, Georgia, the ten-speed automatic transmission is the automotive industry’s first production version for front-drive vehicles. One of the key goals in the design of the ten-speed transmission was compactness. The use of a two-way clutch over the previous one-way clutch and multi-disc brake reduced the length by 25 mm. The transmission also uses an integrated external and internal gear to transfer torque, saving an additional 45 mm of space.

Honda ten-speed automatic transmission
Honda ten-speed automatic transmission
Honda ten-speed automatic transmission
Honda ten-speed automatic transmission


 The ten-speed transmission features a ratio spread of 10.1, an increase from the 6.0 ratio spread in Honda’s six-speed automatic and the 9.8 ratio spread in its nine-speed automatic. The transmission’s low-friction design improves the Odyssey’s fuel economy, while the ratio spread allows an rpm reduction to 1,560 rpm at 70 mph from 1,960 rpm for the six-speed transmission. The ten-speed automatic transmission is capable of a direct double downshift at any gear, and can also directly downshift four gears at once from 10th gear to 6th gear or from 7th gear to 3rd gear. This feature enables a quick response and a smooth transition when rapidly accelerating or decelerating from any speed.



Suppliers showcase advancements in all automotive areas

Denso

 At WCX17, Denso highlighted the MDrive Car Sharing Project held at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to study the benefits and challenges of using an electric vehicle for car sharing purposes. Denso, Ford, and NextEnergy collaborated to provide three Ford Focus Electric models for 30 student participants, located at designated parking spots with charging stations, which could be individually reserved on a day-to-day basis. Over the six-month project period, Denso would gather data about the experience from participants through video recordings within the vehicle during operation, user surveys, and discussion on a private message board.

Ford Focus Electric model for MDrive project
Ford Focus Electric model for MDrive project
Camera for recording in Ford Focus Electric
Camera for recording in Ford Focus Electric

 

“Climate Control Impact to Battery Range” presentation by Mr. Robert J. Brinker
“Climate Control Impact to Battery Range” presentation by Mr. Robert J. Brinker

 Denso held a presentation to show the results of MDrive, highlighting both benefits and issues of the project. Benefits that MDrive provided primarily consisted of access to independent, reliable mobility without the traditional financial burden of car ownership, and access to a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation that would typically be unavailable. Challenges were divided into two key areas, issues distinct to electric vehicles and issues with the car-sharing model. The main concern related to the usage of electric vehicles was range anxiety, as participants would worry if they could reach their destination during longer trips. Occasionally, drivers would have to change their driving habits, such as turning off climate control, in order to reach their destination. The primary concern with the car-sharing model was that participants would often be worried that a car wouldn’t be available if it was needed. As such, students would often reserve vehicles days in advance.

 The anxiety range concerns and workarounds of MDrive participants were mentioned in Denso’s other presentation, titled, “Climate Control Impact to Battery Range”. MDrive participants would avoid using the climate control systems during the winter as it would reduce the vehicle’s range by up to 25 miles. The presentation cited range losses between 20% and 60% in extremely cold temperatures, and losses between 18% and 35% in extremely hot temperatures. The presentation then highlighted several components and systems that would reduce the loss of range due to climate control. These include a heat pump which extracts energy from the atmosphere, a two-layer HVAC system which emits fresh air in the upper half of the vehicle and recirculated air along the bottom, personal air-conditioning systems, and radiant heat systems which warms a seat directly.

American Axle and Manufacturing

 At WCX17, American Axle and Manufacturing (AAM) focused on its new Quantum family of lightweight axles and drive units. The company showcased the Quantum systems in its exhibit and held a technology presentation focusing on its development. Quantum was designed by reconsidering all presumptions of how an axle should be designed. By doing this, engineers were able to develop a completely new design for Quantum, achieving all of the target characteristics previously set including cost, weight, and power density. In developing Quantum, AAM had a total of 12 patents filed and applications pending.

Quantum rear beam axle
Quantum rear beam axle
Quantum rear drive unit with electronic limited-slip differential
Quantum rear drive unit with electronic limited-slip differential

 

 Quantum technology features more efficiently positioned bearings and gears, as well as components which save weight and space with combined functionality. These changes provide improved efficiency, traction, and payload capacity among many other benefits. One of the more notable features of the Quantum technology is its scalability across a range of vehicle segments. Quantum components presented at WCX17 included a beam axle designed for pickup trucks, and a rear drive unit with electronic limited-slip differential for passenger vehicles and SUVs. The beam axle for pickup trucks is up to 35% lighter than a traditional axle, while the rear drive unit for passenger vehicles and SUVs is up to 25% lighter than a normal axle used for those vehicles.

e-AAM hybrid and electric drive system
e-AAM hybrid and electric drive system
First-generation EcoTrac disconnecting AWD system
First-generation EcoTrac disconnecting AWD system


 AAM also displayed its e-AAM hybrid and electric driveline systems and both first and second-generation versions of its EcoTrac disconnecting all-wheel drive system at WCX17. The e-AAM system features capabilities such as AWD disconnect, torque vectoring, brake regeneration, coast regeneration for improved driving performance and fuel economy. The EcoTrac system can detect if all-wheel drive is needed and disconnect it if it is not necessary. EcoTrac disconnects at the power transfer unit, causing the driveshaft to stop spinning completely, thus saving more fuel than other disconnect systems.



Discussion sessions address mobility trends and possibilities

Panelists of “Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobility” session. From left to right: Moderator – Mr. Robert Mince, Ford; Mr. Nigel Upton, Hewlett Packard Enterprises; Mr. Elliot Garbus, Intel; Mr. Brett Greenstein, IBM; Mr. Michael Blanck, Cisco.
Panelists of “Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobility” session. From left to right: Moderator – Mr. Robert Mince, Ford; Mr. Nigel Upton, Hewlett Packard Enterprises; Mr. Elliot Garbus, Intel; Mr. Brett Greenstein, IBM; Mr. Michael Blanck, Cisco.

Internet of Things and Mobility panel session

 One of the panel sessions at WCX17, titled, “Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobility”, featured representatives from IBM, Intel, Cisco and Hewlett Packard discussing the possible impacts and influences of the IoT to the automotive industry. During the session, one of the main concepts emphasized was the need for parties within the automotive industry to move quickly in order to take advantage of the opportunities provided by IoT. Based on history with telecommunications companies in a similar situation, companies that do not utilize IoT will find themselves being left behind by parties seizing the opportunity to utilize the potential added value and new streams of revenue.

 Other topics which were discussed include the interaction between the IoT and other emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, and gaining acceptance of IoT from a consumer’s perspective. In regards to autonomous vehicles, a comparison was made that both autonomy and IoT would be transformative technologies for the industry. Furthermore, IoT, autonomy, and AI would need to work collaboratively with each other to manage and transfer the large amounts of data generated by future vehicles. Possible solutions to gaining consumer acceptance of IoT technologies included establishing trust through constant interactions between the consumer and technology, as well as demonstrating the added value of IoT applications.

 

Panelists of “Vehicles as a Shared Economy and the Effects of Automated Technology” session. From left to right: Moderator – Mr. Roger Safford, HNTB; Mr. Peter Kosak, GM; Mr. Sherif Murakaby, Uber; Mr. Dan Curtin, Zipcar; Mr. Pat Bassett, Denso; Mr. Robert Grant, Lyft.
Panelists of “Vehicles as a Shared Economy and the Effects of Automated Technology” session. From left to right: Moderator – Mr. Roger Safford, HNTB; Mr. Peter Kosak, GM; Mr. Sherif Murakaby, Uber; Mr. Dan Curtin, Zipcar; Mr. Pat Bassett, Denso; Mr. Robert Grant, Lyft.

Vehicles as a Shared Economy panel session

 The panel session titled, “Vehicles as a Shared Economy and the Effects of Automated Technology”, discussed the emergence of vehicle-sharing models and solutions and their various considerations. Speakers in the panel included representatives from Zipcar, GM, Denso, Lyft, and Uber. Two driving forces of a shared economy that were discussed were the ability to provide access to reliable, convenient transportation and the ability to do so at an affordable price. Given that vehicle ownership is traditionally the second largest single expense for a household, affordability is a significant factor for mobility options. In an access-based economy, a reduced price point expands the range of people with access to mobility, providing benefits to a community such as increased employment and spending within a city. Furthermore, this creates additional opportunities in first- and last-mile solutions.

 Another discussion point was the importance of ADAS and autonomous technology for vehicle-sharing solutions. The primary benefit in developing the technologies is the potential for increased safety by reducing the number of accidents and fatalities. The panel also discussed how vehicle design would change due to the increasing use and influence of vehicle-sharing models. The panel noted that vehicles for sharing services focus on efficiency, and thus will more likely consist of hybrid or electric models in the future. Additionally, vehicles would be designed around providing unique experiences. This can be done by providing context-based services within the vehicle or increasing the vehicle’s personalization capabilities. City infrastructure would also be affected by an increased use of vehicle-sharing. For example, the need for dedicated parking areas would decrease due to the increased percentage of time that a vehicle is in use.

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Keywords
SAE, WCX, Ford, Honda, Denso, American Axle, IoT, Mobility, Shared Economy

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