“We’ve always known it was coming,” says William H. Mattingly, referring to zero defects, the sine qua non of automotive quality. Mattingly, Chrysler Group vice president-Electrical/ Electronics Engineering Core, is responsible for the design, development and release of core electrical/electronics components and systems for Chrysler vehicles.
“Customers today are simply not willing to accept defects, even small ones, in a $35,000 car,” he says. To stress the point to suppliers, Mattingly shows them a lot containing thousands of vehicles apparently ready for shipment. “Suppose you have a defect in one reel of chips. A microprocessor that costs $10 or $15 goes into a controller that costs $150, which goes into a powertrain that goes into a vehicle, and we end up with a lot full of vehicles on hold, with each of them worth $35,000. When we’re holding inventory, it’s a lot different from a company holding an inventory of semiconductor chips. That image of the cars in the lot helps communicate the gravity of the situation.”
The stakes are increasingly high as Chrysler and other suppliers deploy more safety-critical electronic systems. Chrysler, for example, deployed an electronic stability program (ESP) in the 2005 Chrysler Crossfire, Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Using data from steering sensors in each wheel, the ESP compares the driver’s intended course, based on steering angle, with the vehicle’s measured behavior. In the event of deviations or instability, ESP engages through a reduction of engine torque and brake engagement on one or more wheels.
“A driver sees a vehicle too close in front, steers hard to the left, then tries to come back to the original lane. That means lots of energy is expended at high speeds, and it creates a high risk of rollover,” Mattingly notes.
Chrysler’s electronic rollover mitigation system, launched in the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, anticipates situations that may lead to a rollover. It monitors driver input, vehicle roll attitude, and lateral force, and when necessary, reduces engine torque and applies a short burst of full braking to the appropriate wheel to stabilize the vehicle.
“We now have several well-defined systems running, with electronic stability interfacing with powertrain control via CAN bus. The bus has to be high speed, and must be reliable,” Mattingly says.
Customers are attracted to safety features, he adds. “The growth areas are in the chassis, and in audio telematics. We’ve also seen an upswing in demand for navigations systems, as well as in rear-seat video, and satellite radio.
“Navigation has taken off in Europe and Asia. In the United States, it’s getting to a price point where people like it. And once they get it, they’re hooked. Satellite radio packages are available on almost every vehicle. Its advantages are sound quality, not having to change channels, and no commercials. We’re also seeing demand for MP3 audio.”