DETROIT -- From developing cleaner diesel emissions components to increasing the capability of infotainment systems to improving automated driving, Jeff Owens, Delphi Automotive Systems' chief technology officer, has a full plate these days.
The company is investing in start-ups Tula Technology Inc. and Quanergy Systems Inc. to help bring innovations to market faster. Owens spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
Q: Delphi recently offered more details on the Dynamic Skip Fire cylinder-deactivation system that could be on the market by 2020. One detail needs more explanation. How can an engine run on a partial cylinder?
A: Mechanical cylinder deactivation has always been by cylinder banks -- eight going to four, six going to three. But with Dynamic Skip Fire, you are able to activate just the number of cylinders you need based on the torque load required by the driver.
You are activating cylinders at scheduled intervals. When you look at the average, a V-8 can go to six or two or 1.5, for example. It's an average of how many cylinders are firing over the rpms.
Is Delphi working on technologies that reduce diesel emissions in the cylinder instead of downstream?
For sure. There are a lot of opportunities to improve the emissions and fuel economy performance of both gasoline and diesel engines yet to be had. We think they will be part of the automotive equation -- easily 95 percent of the powerplants by 2025, even through 2030 and 2035. For diesel engines, you've got the opportunity to increase the fuel-injection pressure and increase the sophistication of the injector design for a better dispersion of fuel for a more complete burn. That will reduce residual particles. You can look at the pressure in the cylinder itself. We are looking at ways to sense the pressure exactly for better or more precise closed loop control.
Can you give us a preview of what Delphi will be announcing at International CES, the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas in January?
We always look forward to CES; it's really become an automotive show. We started 20 years ago, so it's our 20th anniversary. We'll be there again this year in a big way. We did automated driving last year, and we'll be there again with more automated driving demonstrations that will be very unique to the industry. We will showcase some big data capabilities, high speed, architectures that are the nervous system for making all of these electronics function at higher and higher data speeds.
Earlier this year Delphi drove an autonomous car from Los Angeles to New York. What did the company learn from that experience? And what components of self-driving cars need to improve?
We collected three terabytes of data, and we are still going through it. We had 20 sensors on the car, and we are parsing what sensors work best in certain situations, what [camera, radar and lidar] sensors work together best. That's how, for example, we came to the conclusion that lidar will be necessary for level 3 and level 4 automated driving. We learned radar technology works extremely well in any weather condition. It worked flawlessly.
We learned that a vision system will have a little difficulty with certain sun angles and inclement weather. But radar and vision together is an unbeatable combination. We learned that lane markings in every state and even in almost every municipality are different. It's very important we understand all the lane markings around the world because visually we have to pick up on them to ascertain if the vehicle is in the proper location.
Everyone wants to know when automated driving will arrive and in what form. What's Delphi's view?
It's already on the road today; it's just not fully automated. Technology is on the road that gives drivers assistance when they need it -- lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, collision-imminent braking. I think you will see more and more functions become automated. But when will we see a fully automated car that can drive itself? I'd say that's 10-plus years away.
When you consider all the ways the automobile is changing, this is a great time to be an engineer, isn't it? Does Delphi have enough engineers? Are you hiring?
You never have enough engineers! You can always work on more things and a lot of the cool technologies. The challenge is working on the technologies that bring value to your customers, that really solve their problems. We've added a significant number of engineers this year, and we forecast to add another thousand next year. We are roughly at 20,000 this year. That's across three continents. Our biggest challenge will be software and systems engineers. The explosive and exponential growth is going to be in software and system integration.