Convergence: Mission accomplished
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
One of the sharpest engineers I have met is Trevor Jones, a Brit who at one time worked for General Motors and now spends a lot of volunteer time at the Cleveland Clinic.
Longer ago than either of us would like to admit, he realized it was important to have a forum for what was then in its infancy, something known as convergence.
No one was sure how far this blending of electronics and mechanicals would go in automobiles. But more than 30 years ago, Trevor Jones almost single-handedly put together a conference and trade show that is still held every other year by SAE.
It is remarkable how this integration has accelerated. What was mostly a discussion back then is now a question of not if or how it will happen but only when.
If you look at today's automobile, it is obvious how much convergence has occurred. Most parts of the car are now a blend of mechanical components and electronics.
Not long ago, an engine was a sophisticated mechanical device that did its job rather well. Today, after adding computers, servos, sensors and various other electronic bits and pieces, you have an engine that is so much more sophisticated.
Pick any part of today's automobile and you will see the same increased level of convergence. Whether it's the transmission or heating and cooling systems or even basic comfort systems, the merger of electronics and mechanical components is complete.
As more cars and trucks have hybrid systems, it will be even more obvious that the two systems are integrated and have become inseparable.
Whether it's a plug-in electric car with the latest and greatest powerpacks and charging systems, an equally complicated hybrid system or the supercars that companies such as Ferrari plan to introduce, there are electronic-mechanical systems that were inconceivable just a few years ago.
As the demand for more fuel efficiency and increasingly lower emissions creates challenges for automotive engineers, convergence is essential.
I haven't talked to Trevor lately, but he likely would agree that much of what he envisioned a few decades ago has been accomplished.
He had a great vision and certainly should be pleased.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.