Mechanics win NASCAR trip of a lifetime

Published:  22 August, 2018

Federal-Mogul Motorparts is sending two lucky technicians from Top-notch Motor Repairs in Tamworth to the USA to see the thrills of NASCAR at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida. The winners entered a prize draw sponsored by MOOG, Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ steering and suspension specialist. MOOG has sponsored NASCAR for over 50 years and supplies parts to all cars in both the European and US series.   The grand prize was a trip for two to watch a NASCAR race in the US, including flights, accommodations and track transfers. Runner-up prizes included hospitality tickets for the Brands Hatch leg of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, while over 500 limited edition prizes were also awarded, including t-shirts and caps.   “We have only just taken in the good news,” said winner Kevin Taylor. “To say we are both really chuffed is an understatement. We chose to go to the race at Daytona in Florida so that we can take full advantage of the trip and indulge our other great passion, big game fishing. We are both keen anglers and the combination of Florida, NASCAR and some time out on the sea is just about as perfect a holiday as we can imagine.”

“Congratulations to the guys at Top-notch Motor Repairs for winning the competition, and also a big thank you to everyone who got involved,” said Jonathan Allen, Regional Marketing Manager, Federal-Mogul Motorparts.   The promotion was run to celebrate MOOG’s sponsorship of the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, which sees drivers compete in 11 rounds across Europe. The next races in the series, the 2018 semi-finals, will be held on the 15th and 16th of September at the Hockenheimring in Germany.  

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  • Steering you right? 

    Picking up from my topic and opinions on autonomous vehicle control last month I think it reasonable to explore the very technology our safety is to be placed.

    When considering the most challenging aspect of autonomous vehicle control, we must look to steering and stability correction. My references are limited to the Volkswagen Group, however most manufacturers now share similar drivetrain and chassis technology.

    Steering assist
    These systems have evolved over many years in what I term modular development. Steering assist is such a system. Steering assist is directly proportional to driver input force, the steering torque sensor g269 detects rotation, the steering angle sensor g85 provides angle and rotation acceleration.

    Responding to this data the control module j500 calculates the required assistance from the power steering assist motor v187. When parking, a low or zero vehicle speed combined with a rapid steering input provides maximum assistance. During driving additional data relating to environmental conditions, urban or motorway, modifies the appropriate assistance.
    One of the first problems to overcome was return to neutral or zero steering angle. This is activated with a reduction in force on the torsion bar, whereby the rate of return is also a function of environmental influences. The dual steering angle sensor is comprised of a LED and photo electric diode.

    The steering torque sensor operates on the magnetic resistance principle. Failure results in a gradual reduction in assistance. The asynchronous brushless motor provides up to 4nm of assistance. Once again emphasis should be directed to programming and adaptive correction via e serial platform.

    Stability & proximity
    When introducing vehicle stability dynamics, even more data is required: An accelerometer as well as yaw and  pitch sensors will complement existing input requirements. Enhanced and shared functionality with ABS enables the braking system to support vehicle control through corners by applying a control force through the rear brakes.

    We now need to consider the vehicle proximity control system; the system employs an ultrasonic sensor to monitor and determine the environment. However, this interim system has several critical shortcomings, especially due to its narrow detection field and inaccurate position calculation regarding other vehicles and obstacles. The next modular enhancement introduces side or blind spot monitoring or side assist. This system also has limitations with range and vector limitations. Although operating on a high speed can network, it operates on a master slave principle, for example; slave units only transmit data and diagnostics on demand from the master module.

    It is of note that the vehicle now relies on no less than 13 control modules, with predictive position algorithms. Later evolution will include optical, video, ultrasound, infrared and laser. Optical lane assist which is mounted on the windscreen requires considerable coding and calibration, notwithstanding windshield replacement, so much for off-site repairers.

    Calibration & correction
    Calibration requires determination of the camera orientation, the exact installed location, the height at which the camera is installed and three orientation measurements. This is an electronic function as no mechanical adjustment is provided. Therefore any change in tyre, wheel diameter or suspension repair or modification will invalidate this system accuracy, including fault memory errors.

    We now move into the era of de-coupling direct driver steering input. This system allows computer correction of steering angle. For example, with a loss of driver control, ESP can introduce a counter steer input to regain control. This system is intended to maintain the maximum static traction between the road surface and tyre. Should this be insufficient to maintain a safe curve radius, the ABS can be employed to help recover the vehicle attitude.

    The system can carry out actual steering angle correction while the driver maintains a different steering wheel input, such as on snow, ice, or on flooded road surface conditions. In order to facilitate this function, a mechanical flexi-coupling is mounted in the upper steering column. The outer has 100 teeth, with the inner posessing 102. They can rotate together as one with direct driver input command or can rotate at a different angle disengaging driver direct input control.

    In effect this system still complies with statutory requirements as having still a de-facto fail-safe mechanical connection between driver and steering mechanism. Therefore is still level 0 status, in terms of autonomy.

    At this point we are a million miles from even level 2 or 3 autonomous control. Level 3 allows for the driver to release physical contact with vehicle controls yet remain available and alert in case of system failure. Please make your own mind up. However, I’m not for turning!



  • No self control? 

    Having witnessed the growth of passive driver assist systems and the intent to move towards fully autonomous vehicle control, my topic this month is to raise both thought and debate towards the implications. My first intention is to separate assistance from autonomy.

    I fully support assistance as it provides a safer environment for the driver to concentrate on vehicle control. Many of these systems have been available for a very long time, including possibly the very first, power steering and power windows.

    ABS to power steering
    Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are, I think, an excellent example where drivers may be misled as to the safety improvements. However, the laws of physics still apply, and the co-efficient of friction and kinetic energy will always dictate the retardation distance and vector. Obvious enhancements to ABS work as a fully integrated system, including dynamic chassis stability.
    Early variants simply monitored the wheel speed sensor frequency, reducing the engine throttle angle to reduce torque through the driving wheels when a significant differential existed. Recent additions now include variable geometry anti-roll bar and adjustable rate shock absorber damping with self- levelling.

    Evolving in parallel with these systems, and this is where there is an arguable transition from passive to active or automatous control, is the steering system. The introduction of power steering does have great advantages in reducing driver fatigue and improving mechanical response to steering wheel input. The next evolution was variable rate steering assist, whereby the assistance is proportional to steering angle and road speed. with the evolution of brushless motors and highly accurate position sensor technology, steering systems now offer corrective suggestion to the driver via a subtle torsion bar within the upper steering column. Should the driver resist this small force the system will disengage leaving the driver fully in control.
    I am choosing to ignore for the moment fully autonomous steering control as it embodies a whole array of additional control input requirements.  This allows me to focus on some of the more peripheral driver support systems which I do fully endorse. Matrix vehicle lighting control is possibly one of the best safety improvements. This enables full beam lighting always, yet avoiding oncoming vehicle light stray. Smart cruise control is also especially useful on motorways in uniform traffic conditions.

    Compliance
    The next group of driver assist starts to cross the boundaries of assistance, this is due to the introduction of long- range transmitters and receptors, lane divergence, and vehicle proximity awareness. This technology does of course lend itself to other previously mentioned systems.  

    There should be a very sobering pause at this point.  To maintain system integrity and accuracy from the above systems a little thought should be given to the almost non- existent function called calibration.it is critical. If you fully consider the implications of everyday servicing and repairs that affect these systems, compliance is the responsibility of the repairer. This means you.
    This is the point where I cannot avoid the transition towards full driverless autonomous control. Due to several critical considerations, technical compliance, political compliance, legal compliance, and public acceptance, it is to be rolled out in five steps over several years. Ford recently suggested it could be implemented by 2021, with level zero full human control, to level five where the human has no input responsibility.

    What of the globe’s biggest commerce giant’s? Intel has just purchased an Israeli autonomy tech company for $15 billion. Google has spent a modest $30m, and Facebook is in it too. All hellbent on convincing us of the benefits in total vehicle automation. Given their past and current dishonesty, self-interest, and responsibility avoidance you can bet it all going to be a financial beartrap.
     However, my personal feelings are more complex. Humans has evolved over many thousands of years by overcoming and controlling a multitude of challenges. It has enabled our brain and cognitive functions to develop to incredible levels. Imagine then, being trapped in an autonomous container with absolutely no functional requirement. What will you do by way of brain stimulation or choices. I accept traffic jams are worst than toothache, but driving is a socially shared experience. Think of the simple activities that release endorphins, such as cycling and walking. Why? because of the brain stimulation and cognitive responses, a form of achievement.

    If you must have total autonomy for your travel requirements, then public transport is available now. My acid test for the techno maniacs out there is, given that the technology is currently available and has been proven over several years, would you choose to fly in an aircraft with no pilot? Remember that even in autopilot there are teams of humans constantly monitoring the flight path and technical systems.

    Credibility
    I’m not ignorant of the accident statistics that give credibility to automation, if that was the true motivation, then smoking and alcohol would be banned tomorrow as they kill and maim an awful lot more.

    It has been suggested that our home environment would be improved as our car could drop us off and then park its self in a less congested place, so if you live in central London your car could end up in a South Downs village. On a more sinister note, if an autonomous vehicle faced with an inevitable collision from a oncoming car, would it mount the pavement and choose the mother with a pram as the better survivable outcome for its occupants?

    The very best qualities of life always come back to interaction, be it with other people, pets or machines, what next? When do machines decide we are the redundant component? Disagree, or debate, but don’t accuse me of not embracing technology, I have spent my life trying to master it.





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